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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Mar 2022

Vol. 1019 No. 7

Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Neutrality) Bill 2022: First Stage


Go gceadófar go dtabharfar isteach Bille dá ngairtear Acht chun an Bunreacht a leasú.

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Constitution.

I thank Ms Diana O'Dwyer and Mr. Des Hennelly in People Before Profit for their work on the Bill as well as the Bills Office. This is a Bill which, if passed, would mean we would have a referendum to enshrine neutrality in the Constitution. That is defined as Ireland being a neutral State that will not join many military alliances. It states that Ireland could only participate in armed conflict in circumstance where it is under attack or invasion and with the vote of a Dáil. It states very clearly that the Government could not join wars or get the country to join wars as part of an EU decision. If it wanted to do that, it would need another referendum.

There is obviously a context to this Bill, which is the significant propaganda war on neutrality being waged by members of the establishment, political parties, very senior members of the Government, various media commentators, academics and so on. I will read some quotes from the last couple of weeks. The Tánaiste said that we "need to think about greater involvement in European defence." The Taoiseach said, "Neutrality is a policy issue that can change at any time." The Minister for Foreign Affairs two days ago said that Ireland will participate in the EU rapid reaction force involving 5,000 troops, raising a question mark over the triple lock.

I will be clear. This attempt to completely undermine neutrality, which the Irish establishment sees as a shackle on its ability to get involved in US-led imperialist adventures, is not new. This is not as a consequence of Putin's horrendous invasion of Ukraine. The Government is simply using that.

Fine Gael in 2003 was very openly calling to get rid of neutrality altogether. What is happening here is a rebranding of NATO - the US-led military alliance - as some sort of peace force, as if it was the natural neutral teacher on the playground stopping the bullies. Tell that to the ordinary people of Afghanistan who had their country invaded and occupied by NATO for years. Who gave NATO or the US the right to consider themselves the world police? Tell that to the people of Iraq, more than 1 million of whom died as part of the US invasion and suffered at the hands of NATO members.

We are asking that this to be put to the people. Let us have a debate about it instead of the Government continuing to simply undermine and erode neutrality.

We believe the time is right and appropriate to have a referendum to let the people of this country make a decision, which is what this Bill is doing. We want to put our traditional military neutrality, which this and successive Governments have tried to undermine, into the Constitution so it is absolutely guaranteed and secured, and to stop the very concerted push by successive Governments to align us with the NATO military alliance dominated by major imperial powers, namely, the United States, the UK, France, Germany and so on.

They are powers that have led barbaric conflicts, most obviously in Iraq in 2003, which claimed the lives of 1 million people. In Afghanistan, tens of thousands of people were killed. The leading powers of NATO continue to arm Saudi Arabia in an EU-UK supported war in Yemen that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and brought 14 million people to the brink of starvation.

These powers dominate NATO and we should have absolutely nothing to do with them, especially in the face of Putin's brutal imperialistic war. If we are rightly horrified by an imperialist war being waged by Putin, with devastating consequences for the people of Europe and Ukraine, then, surely, we must take a lesson from that.

We have to stand against all warmongering, all imperialism and all military alliances that are about controlling other people’s lands and resources, shoring up spheres of influence and spending billions on weapons to kill people. Surely this is the most important time to reassert our neutrality. That does not mean being indifferent. It means remembering where James Connolly and the people who helped found this State stood when they fought to establish this State against the brutality of the British Empire and the brutality of the First World War. We should uphold that tradition. This Bill seeks to ensure that we do that by inserting it into the Constitution.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.
Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Tairgim: “Go dtógfar an Bille in am Comhaltaí Príobháideacha.”

I move: “That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.
Question put and agreed to.
Cuireadh an Dáil ar fionraí ar 1.21 p.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar 2.21 p.m.
Sitting suspended at 1.21 p.m. and resumed at 2.21 p.m.