Is uafásach an rud é go leanann feachtas an IRA ar aghaidh leis an mbuama a tharla i Londain inné. Is cinnte nach gcabhraíonn sé le ról na tíre seo thar lear nuair atá ag teip orainn deireadh a chur le foréigean ó Éireannaigh sa tír seo agus gó mór-mhór thar lear.
Déanaimis go léir iarracht a chur in iúl don IRA nach bhfuil siad ag gníomhú ar son muintir na hÉireann agus nach gcabhraíonn siad le muintir na hÉireann sa tír seo nó thar lear. Is tábhachtach an rud é sin a rá ar dtús báire agus sinn ag caint ar ghnóthaí eachtracha.
Since I last spoke on this debate almost a month ago the Israelis have bombarded Southern Lebanon and the Irish soldiers serving there with the UN have been fortunate to escape with their lives — their tour of duty was unexpectedly prolonged as a result of the reckless Israeli violence. The background to that bloody aggression serves to illustrate the need for serious reforms in the UN. It does no good to the efforts towards reform, improvement and greater efficiency in the UN for our Government to flirt with the Western European Union and NATO's Partnership for Peace. To call a body linked with NATO "Partnership for Peace" is a cynical abuse of the English laguage. It would be more accurate to call it the partnership of those preparing for war.
Although the PFP, which was formed at NATO's 1994 summit, allows members to be flexible in deciding in which areas it wishes to co-operate with NATO, there is no doubt that membership involves support for a military bloc. Two of the five objectives contained in its framework document are: the development of co-operative military relations with NATO for the purpose of joint planning, training and exercise in order to strengthen their ability to undertake missions in the fields of peacekeeping, search and rescue, humanitarian operations and others as may subsequently be agreed; and the development over the longer term of forces that are better able to operate with those of members of the Notth Atlantic Alliance. Ireland does not have to join a body linked with NATO to take part in peacekeeping operations as we already take part in such operations under the auspices of the UN.
It is important to look at specific aspects of the White Paper in relating to neutrality, security and defence. The section on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe states that Ireland's policy will be to strengthen the OSCE and refers to maximising the contribution the OSCE can make to European security. Yet there is not one specific suggestion of what changes might be introduced for that purpose. For example, there are no suggestions on improving the decision-making procedures, even for operational decisions. When that is contrasted with the more specific suggestions as to how Ireland can contribute to NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Western European Union, it is evident that the Government's real interest lies with these military blocs.
Despite the fact that the Government has promised a referendum on the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference if it has implications for neutrality, the White Paper offers no referendum on the decision to join the Partnership for Peace — that will be decided by the Oireachtas. However the Government might like to dress it up with talk about peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. Joining the PFP or agreeing to participate in Western European Union activities means signing an agreement with military alliances and, therefore, aligning outselves with these alliances. If the Government claims that has no implications for neutrality, it must have a very peculiar definition of neutrality.
The document states that NATO agreed to make available its collective assets for Western European Union operations undertaken in pursuit of the common foreign and security policy of the European Union. That is not true. NATO and the Western European Union have an agreement in principle with regard to each other's resources, but the specifics of what operations would be covered have not yet been worked out. The Government, in jumping the gun on this point, appears to be even more enthusiastic about this development than NATO and the Western European Union.
The document states that the Government has decided to discuss with the Western European Union the possibility of Ireland taking part on a case by case basis in humanitarian and rescue tasks and peacekeeping tasks under the Petersberg Declaration. These tasks include humanitarian, rescue and peacekeeping tasks as well as tasks of combat forces in crisis management — if one can believe its stated intentions, the Government does not intend to take part in the latter. Will that happen independently of the Intergovernmental Conference? The White Paper does not state that that will be part of the Intergovernmental Conference, as we have been led to believe. Is this another attempt to avoid a referendum on yet another move to align ourselves with a military alliance? These tasks may be requested by the UN, the OSCE or the EU. In other words we may be taking part in peacekeeping missions not agreed by the UN or the OSCE. Even if the missions are under the auspices of the UN, placing Ireland under a Western European Union umbrella will make the position more complicated rather than more efficient. The document states that this proposal would help Ireland to make available our experience and knowledge in peacekeeping areas, but in what way is that not available now?
While the Government has succeeded in giving the media and the public the impression that the White Paper maintains our neutral position, section 4.114 reiterates the commitment of successive Irish Governments that when the time came Ireland would be willing to enter into negotiations on a common defence policy for the Union. It is clear, therefore, that there is still a good deal of ambivalence regarding our neutral position.
We should focus in this debate on the UN and the need to radically overhaul that body. The Israelis can do what they want as long as they enjoy the support of the USA, indeed as long as they enjoy the backing of any combination of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The UN, however, must get its own house in order. Ireland has the credibility as a neutral country and the experience as a long serving contributor to peacekeeping duties around the world to play a key role in having the UN's house put in order.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council do not have a veto on wisdom and non-violent conflict resolution. These countries make a fortune from selling military hardware around the world. Is it any wonder that Islamic fundamentalists deride the hypocrisy of the patronising calls for peace from these hard-nosed warmongers? I put it to the Tánaiste that a strong case exists for countries with trade in military hardware to have a diminished role in deciding UN policy instead of the present veto which this permanent member élite enjoys.
The current UN structure makes life difficult for the UN but, more tragically, it allows wars to rage fuelled by the latest weaponry and, in the case of Israel, results in Irish soldiers' lives being put at risk as we saw in the recent attacks which so narrowly missed a UN base in Southern Lebanon.
At times like this points must be made and the strongest protests must be lodged and acted upon. I met many people who felt the Irish Government's response to the slaughter of innocent civilians in Lebanon was so weak as to be disrespectful to those killed and injured in the face of these acts of terrorism. We all know Israel has been attacked by terrorists but what type of country can call itself modern, civilised and democratic and at the same time blow innocent people to smithereens?
Israel is not alone in facing what is in effect a charge of hypocrisy. All the permanent members of the UN Security Council continue to manufacture landmines which are not just weapons of war; they are described by many as slow motion instruments of genocide. As we speak, a three weeks conference is proceeding in Geneva to agree a ban on the manufacture and distribution of these murderous and disfiguring devices. So far, 30 countries have called for a ban but there has been no move from Ireland.