I call Deputy Lucinda Creighton.
Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2008: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages.
I indicated that I wished to speak.
There were four people to speak and that was the order I was given.
I am conscious that Deputy Costello wants to speak and I will be brief. I echo the sentiments of previous Deputies who have spoken on the irony of Sinn Féin expressing grave concerns on the militarisation of Europe. That irony is not lost on the people of Ireland, and in taking advice from various groups and political parties on how they should vote on the treaty referendum on 12 June they will take that into account.
I take issue with Deputy Ó Snodaigh's attempt to equate the European project with the imperialist agenda of the United Kingdom in previous centuries. I object to that and it says much about where Sinn Féin stands on the European Union and project. At today's Committee on European Affairs meeting Deputy Timmins raised a very relevant issue when he questioned whether any political party would have the courage of their convictions to stand up and be counted, confess it is opposed to the European project, as Sinn Féin clearly is, and call for the withdrawal of Ireland from the EU. This is clearly what Sinn Féin believes, let us face it. To equate the EU, as pointed out by Deputy Mansergh, the best, most successful and unprecedented peace project in the history of the world, with the imperialist adventures of the UK is preposterous.
I take issue with the criticism that has been put forward on the humanitarian mission in Chad involving 400 Irish troops. This is a crucial and critical intervention in a humanitarian crisis involving refugees fleeing from what has been described virtually internationally as a genocide. I question the moral authority of anybody who contends on the record of this House that this is a military adventure.
Article 29 of the Constitution of Ireland clearly states that the Irish State shall not adopt a decision to establish a common defence. That is reiterated in the text of the Lisbon treaty. I do not accept the amendment proposed by Deputy Ó Snodaigh and his party on neutrality to a mutual defence because it is unnecessary. We have a safeguard and guarantee in our Constitution. We have also retained the requirement for unanimity in voting on CFSP. That is copperfastened and clearly stated in the Lisbon treaty. There is no change. I cannot understand how anybody who considers themselves in any way patriotic could object to the values of the EU on protecting democracy and humanitarian interests and involving itself in peacekeeping, peace enforcing and humanitarian, civilian and post-conflict stabilisation missions as the EU does, and proposes to continue to do, under the terms of the Lisbon treaty. I cannot comprehend how somebody could object to that. The only conclusion that can be drawn on this is that Sinn Féin and Deputy Ó Snodaigh oppose the EU.
When we campaigned for accession to the EU in 1972, the same voices were opposed to our accession. The same voices raised the same threats, scaremongering and bullying tactics related to this allegation of the erosion of our neutrality and that we would see the sons and daughters of Ireland conscripted to some war-mongering army. We heard the same allegations in 1986 on the Single European Act, in 1992, 1997 and 2002. On every European treaty referendum in this country we have heard the same arguments and on every occasion they have proven to be false. As a result of our membership of the EU in terms of CFSP and defence we have seen a major contribution from EU member states all over the Balkans and now expanding into Africa. I do not see how that can be a negative result.
On the commitments on spending, I strongly feel we have responsibilities. It is not all about rights and closing ourselves off and retreating into a bunker. It is about Ireland being proud, standing up and playing our part in world affairs and geopolitics. In that context we must make commitments on spending. If we want our soldiers in Chad, Kosovo, Bosnia or wherever to be equipped with the best equipment to ensure their safety and security, we must make those commitments. There is eminent sense in trying to pool our resources with our fellow EU member states in ensuring greater levels of interoperability, which are critical, and that we do not continue with the type of duplication we see in military equipment and intelligence in the EU. Deputy Timmins has already pointed to this.
The proposal for permanent structured co-operation is positive. For example, if footballers who play for different football teams go abroad to play on the Irish squad they will train together in advance of going abroad. Otherwise they will not have a co-ordinated approach. The same applies to troops from Ireland and across the EU. If they are going to a dangerous conflict situation such as Chad they need to train together in advance. That is the proposal: structured and more permanent military co-operation so that we are prepared when we go abroad on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, not military adventures, as Deputy Ó Snodaigh contended.
It is clear in the text of this Bill that we have an opt-out and will not be obliged to participate in a common defence. There is a clear requirement for unanimity. My belief is that Deputy Ó Snodaigh and Sinn Féin are fully aware of this. This is a cynical exercise to raise the profile of a party that is flagging in the polls. That is the extent to which Sinn Féin will benefit from its opposition to the treaty. It has no logical arguments that lead us to any conclusion other than that our neutrality is to be safeguarded, along with our independence on other issues such as tax. I welcome also the statement of the Referendum Commission in this regard. I suggest that if we are to have a debate on the Lisbon treaty we stick to the facts. Irish neutrality — our traditional position of being unaligned — is retained, and we retain our veto. It is simple and straightforward. This amendment is simply designed to create an opportunity for Deputy Ó Snodaigh to stand up in the House and mislead it. The facts speak for themselves.
It is perverse that Sinn Féin should be the party that presents itself as a champion of peace and an opponent of militarisation when nobody else sees such a threat in this treaty. Deputy Ó Snodaigh's speech stood out starkly in the context of the 50 years of peace that the European Union has given to Europe and to this island, of which the members of Sinn Féin should be particularly aware. With regard to the common foreign and security policy, CFSP, the situation is quite different from that presented. The CFSP allows the European Union to operate military missions only in the context of accordance with the United Nations Charter, international law and democracy. That is stated at the outset of the articles concerning the CFSP. The UN Charter is the common thread that governs all activities in this area. The articles show that this is the case. All military missions are dealt with in this fashion. Ireland has raised the bar higher: the Irish Government and people have made it clear that we must also have a mandate from the UN in the context of a specific resolution of the Security Council or the plenary council of the UN. That remains intact and we have added to it with the triple lock.
The battle groups have no bearing, good, bad or indifferent, on the situation. When we passed the relevant legislation two years ago in this House, the same arguments were raised. The battle groups are essentially a framework structure for the Nordic countries with which Ireland is involved to allow training together, operation and rapid deployment. This is as essential as the need to have good equipment so that when members of the Defence Forces go abroad on the Petersberg Tasks they will be properly trained and equipped. Nobody is needed in Chad who cannot operate in a well-trained, well-equipped fashion.
Articles 27 and 28 of the Treaty on the European Union, which deal with the common security and defence policy, including the framing of a common Union defence policy, were mentioned. Deputy Ó Snodaigh read part of that section but he did not go on to read the final part, which states that this will lead to a common defence when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides. Ireland has already put down a marker in this regard in the Nice treaty with the Seville declaration, and has also installed it in the Constitution. It is now being further copperfastened by this Bill in the amended Article 15° of the Constitution.
There is no doubt we will hear again these arguments that our neutrality is being undermined. In fact, the position of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance is that we no longer have neutrality, and that is another reason it wants us to oppose the Lisbon treaty, although I do not see the logic in that. The common foreign and security policy specifically determines the missions in which we engage. Missions engaged in by the EU will be in accordance with the UN Charter and with international law. This is the governing principle and it is the one we should acknowledge and adhere to down the line. I do not see in any way that our neutrality is being undermined and I do not think it is fair to say that repeatedly. It has been said during the campaign for every treaty. The same language is used: the European army, common defence, Irish neutrality gone down the Swanee. The Apocalypse never happens, but of course this time it will. It is like the person who goes around with a sign saying that the end of the world is nigh — eventually something will happen. However, there is no indication of this in the treaty.
There is no change in the Irish position. I am certain that Irish neutrality is copperfastened by the Seville declaration, by the current wording of the Constitution, and by the amendment to the Constitution we are discussing.
I thank Deputies for their contributions. I have one final point to make about Deputy Ó Snodaigh's statements. It was a pity he took such a long time to make his contribution. The reality is that our neutrality is not threatened. However, I ask the Deputy to reconsider in particular what he said about Chad. It is astonishing that any Member of the House would walk in here and urge a course of action that would result in hundreds of thousands of people being abandoned to starvation. Does Deputy Ó Snodaigh sincerely think we should leave these unfortunate people to their own devices? Should we leave them to the mercies of warlords? Should we leave the women open to rape, the children open to starvation, the men open to slaughter? Is he suggesting for a moment that the Irish people support his view that we should abandon them to their fate?
I ask the Deputy to bear in mind one thing from the history of our Continent. He should remember what Pastor Niemöller had to say about the cost of people's sitting and doing nothing in the face of real horror. The actions in Chad are supported by the UN but, more importantly, they are requested by every person with a sense of human decency. It is regrettable and reprehensible that Deputy Ó Snodaigh should criticise the Chad mission, which is a humanitarian mission aimed at bringing succour to people who have suffered more than enough while the world sat by and let them starve. Anyone who is conscious of the history of that region will know the cost of the suffering of tens of millions of people. Deputy Ó Snodaigh's comment is outrageous.
I reject the Deputy's amendment for all the reasons I have mentioned but, most importantly, because his amendment runs precisely counter to the truth. The treaty does not in any way affect Ireland's neutrality, which is protected in the manner that Deputies from all sides of the House have recognised. It is protected by the Irish people and that is the most important thing.
Ós rud é go bhfuil sé a seacht a chlog, ní foláir dom an cheist seo a leanas a chur de réir ordú an lae seo, ón Dáil: "Go ndéantar leis seo an leasú a leag an tAire Gnóthaí Eachtracha síos do Chéim an Choiste agus nár cuireadh de láimh, a dhéanamh ar an mBille; go n-aontaítear leis seo i gCoiste ailt 1 agus 2, an Sceideal, arna leasú, an Réamhrá agus an Teideal agus go dtuairiscítear an Bille, arna leasú, don Teach dá réir sin; go gcríochnaítear leis seo an Ceathrú Céim; agus go ndéantar leis seo an Bille a rith."
As it is now seven o'clock, I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendment set down by the Minister for Foreign Affairs for Committee Stage and not disposed of is hereby made to the Bill; that sections 1 and 2, the Schedule, as amended, the Preamble and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House; Fourth Stage is hereby completed; and the Bill is hereby passed."
Cuireadh an cheist.
Will the Deputies dissenting who are claiming a division please rise?
Deputies Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aonghus Ó Snodaigh, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan and Tony Gregory rose.
As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. The names of the Deputies who claim the division will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.