An Bille um an gCeathrú Leasú is Fiche ar an mBunreacht, 2001: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha. Twenty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001: Committee and Remaining Stages.

As the substance of the debate on the Bill will relate to the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment contained in the Schedule to the Bill, and since it would be appropriate to have that Schedule decided upon before deciding on section 1 of the Bill, which actually provides for its insertion into the Constitution, I am suggesting that the House postpones consideration of sections 1 and 2 until after the Schedule is agreed. This is a procedure that has been adopted on Committee Stage in the Seanad in the case of previous Bills to amend the Constitution, which I suggest would lend itself to a more logically ordered debate. I therefore propose, in accordance with Standing Order 107, that con sideration of sections 1 and 2 of the Bill be postponed until the Schedule shall have been disposed of. Is that agreed? Agreed.

AN SCEIDEAL

SCHEDULE

Tairgim leasú a 1:

I gCuid 1, leathanach 7, line 6, i ndiaidh "a dhaingniú", an méid seo a leanas a chur isteach:

", faoi réir teacht ar chomhaontú, a bheidh ina cheangal dlí agus lena mbeidh éifeacht láithreach, le cinn Stáit agus Rialtais AE, ina sonrófar mar a leanas:

‘Ní bhíonn Éire rannpháirteach i ndréachtú agus cur chun feidhme cinntí agus gníomhaíochtaí de chuid an Aontais a bhfuil impleachtaí cosanta acu, ach ní choiscfidh sí forbairt ar chomhar níos dlúithe idir Ballstáit sa réimse sin. Dá bhrí sin, ní bheidh Éire rannpháirteach i nglacadh na mbeart sin. Ní dhéanfaidh Éire rannchuidiú le maoiniú an chaitheachais oibríochtúil a thig ó na bearta sin.',

agus faoi réir Prótacal chuige sin a chur ag gabháil leis an gcéad Chonradh AE eile.",

agus

i gCuid 2, leathanach 7, líne 16, i ndiaidh "2001", an méid seo a leanas a chur isteach:

", subject to a legally binding agreement, with immediate effect, being reached with the EU heads of State and Government, stating that:

‘Ireland does not participate in the elaboration and implementation of decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications, but will not prevent the development of closer co-operation between Member States in this area. Therefore, Ireland shall not participate in their adoption. Ireland shall not contribute to the financing of the operational expenditure arising from such measures.',

and a Protocol to that effect being attached to the next EU Treaty.".

I move amendment No. 1:

In Part 1, page 6, line 6, after "a dhaingniú" to insert the following:

", faoi réir teacht ar chomhaontú, a bheidh ina cheangal dlí agus lena mbeidh éifeacht láithreach, le cinn Stáit agus Rialtais AE, ina sonrófar mar a leanas:

‘Ní bhíonn Éire rannpháirteach i ndréachtú agus cur chun feidhme cinntí agus gníomhaíochtaí de chuid an Aon tais a bhfuil impleachtaí cosanta acu, ach ní choiscfidh sí forbairt ar chomhar níos dlúithe idir Ballstáit sa réimse sin. Dá bhrí sin, ní bheidh Éire rannpháirteach i nglacadh na mbeart sin. Ní dhéanfaidh Éire rannchuidiú le maoiniú an chaitheachais oibríochtúil a thig ó na bearta sin.',

agus faoi réir Prótacal chuige sin a chur ag gabháil leis an gcéad Chonradh AE eile.",

and

in Part 2, page 6, line 16, after "2001" to insert the following:

", subject to a legally binding agreement, with immediate effect, being reached with the EU heads of State and Government, stating that:

‘Ireland does not participate in the elaboration and implementation of decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications, but will not prevent the development of closer co-operation between Member States in this area. Therefore, Ireland shall not participate in their adoption. Ireland shall not contribute to the financing of the operational expenditure arising from such measures.',

and a Protocol to that effect being attached to the next EU Treaty.".

This amendment is not intended to sabotage enlargement. It is merely to remove a certain military aspect that a number of us are increasingly concerned about. These have been introduced very largely by stealth into the recent treaties of the European Union.

I am not claiming any originality for this amendment. I lifted it from the record of the Dáil, where it had been placed by Deputy Gormley. He took it very largely from a Danish protocol. The Danish protocol is worth looking at. It is very close in wording to ours and it was accepted even though Denmark is a member of NATO. The protocol states:

With regard to measures adopted by the Council in the field of Articles J.3(1) and J.7 of the Treaty on European Union, Denmark does not participate in the elaboration and the implementation of decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications, but will not prevent the development of closer cooperation between Member States in this area. Therefore Denmark shall not participate in their adoption. Denmark shall not be obliged to contribute to the financing of operational expenditure arising from such measures.

It is important to put this on the record because it demonstrates that there is a certain level of political seriousness behind this.

I know the Minister enjoyed himself yesterday impugning the motives of certain persons who take this view. I share some of his attitudes towards them, in particular towards Sinn Féin. As I remarked yesterday, there is a degree of irony in Sinn Féin's complaint about the militarisation of the European Union. They did not seem to be particularly worried about the militarisation of Ireland until comparatively recently. It certainly was not snowballs they were pegging at their opponents north of the Border for many years. However, the impugning of certain sections of this lobby does not invalidate the position taken up generally, nor does it invalidate the views of the people on this side of the House generally.

A great majority of politicians and all the major political parties support an unamended Nice treaty. That is fair enough – it is their right, but at least this amendment opens up the possibility of a discussion on the question of neutrality. It seems to me, and to like-minded people, that we are witnessing something we warned of in the discussion of the Maastricht Treaty in Article J7, that there is a growing involvement of Ireland in military operations on behalf of the European Union and a gradual abandonment and erosion of our position of neutrality. That is perfectly fair. If people want to do that, let them, but they should be honest about it and not attempt this manoeuvre simply by stealth.

Regrettably, this morning's debate is probably one in which we are wasting our sweetness, not quite on the desert air but on a comparatively limited number of personnel. There are less than a dozen people in this Chamber. The newspapers seem to have abandoned the record of the Senate entirely, and I notice that there is no "Oireachtas Report" whatever scheduled for tonight. Apparently RTE takes the view that when the Dáil is not in session, regardless of whether the Seanad is conducting its business, the Oireachtas has ceased to function. That is a pity because this would have been another opportunity for an informed discussion on a very important matter, one in which the public have a right to join in.

Support of the amendment does not mean that we abandon peacekeeping. I do not know if was intentional, but yesterday the Minister appeared to give the impression that if one supports this kind of view, one is against a peacekeeping role. I certainly am not, rather I am absolutely in favour of it and honour the activities of the Army in peacekeeping roles. However, the operation of the military aspects of the Nice treaty will mean a consistent draining of our support by NATO. The figures show us committing 850 troops to the rapid reaction force which is almost precisely the number we were committing to UN operations in the Middle-East. Is this not a clear example of a draining away of support from the UN which would be something I should very much regret?

Article 1.5 of the Nice treaty establishes a new institution, referred to as the Political and Secur ity Committee, which will exercise political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations and will direct military interventions during a crisis, including the waging of war. Nobody could describe that as anything other than military; in fact, it could not be clearer. This is to be supported by an elaborate military, bureaucratic, Euro-Pentagon structure set out in the annexes to the Presidency report and referred to in the first declaration attached to the Nice treaty of 33 pages, with seven annexes detailing the new EU military capacity. I am quoting from the record of the Dáil where this point was made very effectively by Deputy John Gormley.

Very few people, and not many in this House, have access to, or are aware of, the content of this considerable volume of supporting documentation which elaborates on this military structure. When I talk about the lack of information it is worthwhile to point out that the views of Mr. Javier Solana on access to information are fairly narrow and he is restricting access to documentation, threatening that if there are leaks access of parliamentarians throughout Europe to information will be further restricted. That is something which should certainly cause us concern.

The Finns and the Swedes no longer describe themselves as neutral and Mr. Solana, who has transferred from being the chief executive of NATO to being very centrally involved in this new group, has actually described neutrality as an out-of-date concept, more or less redundant in the discussions. He said that because simple non-participation in the collective defence pact cannot be seen as equivalent to neutrality, which is a concept of the past. What I might call the chief executive of this powerful and largely secretive committee, which will deal with military matters, regards neutrality as a concept of the past which suggests that the view from outside is that our participation in an unamended Nice treaty means our neutrality is a thing of the past and that is very worrying indeed.

I will leave it at that for the time being as I have also made substantial arguments on Second Stage of the Bill but I would like an opportunity to respond to the Minister and look at the growing trend toward involvement by stealth in groups that are almost inseparable from NATO and the implications of that for the military industrial complex in Europe and America. That is something that worries a number of us very seriously.

I was delighted to see that the Minister has been studying a copy of the booklet released by AFrI yesterday entitledThe Treaty of Nice, NATO and the European Army written by Mr. Andy Storey. The Minister may have some answers and may want to challenge some of the material in it, although it is very well referenced, containing substantial quotations from authoritative sources. It is very much part of the debate that the Minister inform himself as to what is being said by responsible groups such as AFrI which cannot be dismissed in the way one can dismiss the cynical manoeuvrings of certain political groupings. AFrI has a track record on the ground and on almost the first page it recites its credentials:

AFrI, whose executive committee members have worked in Kampuchea, Rwanda, the Sudan and campaigned in solidarity with the people in Burma, East Timor and West Papua.

These are the kinds of people who have produced a document which is strongly critical of the Nice treaty and goes further than I am prepared to do at the moment by actively campaigning for a "No" vote. They raise very serious issues which need to be answered before this referendum can go through.

I listened very carefully to the case made by Senator Norris and I respect that he has researched his views and thought considerably about them. I do not dismiss his views when I take up a point made by the Minister on Second Stage yesterday that much of the debate on the treaty is characterised by what he termed the contrarian view of people who are tailgating their own political agendas which, while they may have merit in their own right, have nothing to do with the Nice treaty. They are using this public debate to highlight their particular cause. Defence comes into the treaty in a very peripheral way and the decisions were made some time before, so I do not agree with much that Senator Norris has said, even thought I respect where he is coming from.

I agree with the view of Javier Solana that the concept of neutrality, as we have understood it militarily before and after the Berlin Wall, is a thing of the past. Ireland has never been neutral because one cannot be neutral to atrocities and we have always had a view about slaughter, mayhem, abuse and the lack of democratic procedures which have made life utterly miserable for civilian communities in places like Rwanda. We can all pick examples going back over the decades since our consciousness was first raised regarding atrocities throughout the world. I have never been neutral to atrocities. As a State, though we have chosen military neutrality, we have never been philosophically neutral and I hate to think of us continuing to wave our neutrality as a flag of convenience, saying "Beware of Europe".

I am extremely proud of our military contribution throughout the world through the UN and our peacekeeping and logistical support in civilian crisis management which we as a nation have been giving since long before it became part of the eurospeak and the Petersberg Tasks agenda. We and our troops have been at that for decades and are lauded throughout the world for the contribution we have made because we are not neu tral when it comes to atrocities, tragedy and starvation.

I feel very strongly that the rapid reaction force is nothing but a call up force and is no different from what our troops have done through the UN. The UN does not have an army assembled at a certain point with the full logistics and management needed to run the show from a central UN army concept point of view. UN troops operate on a call-up basis to wherever the problems exist in the world and according to the demand. The fact that we are allocating 850 of our military to the European rapid reaction force, which targets peacekeeping, peace enforcing and crisis management, is something of which we should be proud and about which we should boast rather than thinking there is some hidden agenda. Those who oppose this aspect of European defence policy seem to be suggesting that somehow conscription is back. It is almost as if we are putting what is largely our young men, and some young women, at a risk over which they would have no control.

There is no conscription. First, anyone who joins the Irish military does so voluntarily and gets superb training and, in many cases, a superb career in the Army, the Naval Service, the Air Force or in civilian life following their Army training. Second, any involvement of Irish troops in any of the tasks that the rapid reaction force might be involved in will be sanctioned by this country on a case by case basis. There is no automatic call-up. Our troops will be sent case by case to wherever is deemed necessary depending on the problems that arise in the future. I see no risk. We are doing this already through the UN. It will be on a case by case basis. The personnel will be superbly trained and equipped and we should boast about the fact that our reputation is such that we will be up there among the best of those who will partake in a rapid reaction force.

I am concerned about those who continue to go on about the "defence implications" of the Nice treaty, depending on whether one comes at it on the neutrality end, a so-called European army end or whatever. With respect to Senator Norris, I do not include him among the contrarian viewpoint, to borrow the Minister's expression of last night. It is a thought out specific viewpoint. There are many other issues, whether abortion, euthanasia, defence or taxation, which are tailgating on the Nice treaty and which have nothing to do with the Nice treaty but which hit the headlines. With respect to certain of our press commentators and our media, they are more interested in the so-called sexy issues that will headline the tabloids or the news heads than the real issues. We rarely see a headline like "Minister Cowen Demands a ‘Yes' Vote" or "Minister Cowen Says Vote ‘Yes' Because . . . .", but anyone who wants to vote "No" on an issue, even irrelevant issues in relation to Nice – I am not including what we are talking about now in that – is guaranteed headlines.

The Government is committed by the courts to balance the "Yes" and the "No" case. I seriously question whether the media have taken on what should be also their responsibility because as much of a contribution to democracy comes through the media as comes from the Houses of Parliament. If the view is that we have to balance the case, which is a strange view to many of us but there is no point in wasting time on that, and promote the "No" case to the same extent as the "Yes" case on the various issues, we must seriously examine the Fourth Estate responsibility in relation to that. Rather than reading headlines continually from now until 7 June which give the contrarian view, which is not relevant to Nice, whatever the personal agendas may be and however worthy the cause may be, we should ask them to seriously consider giving the same headlines to the well made, well balanced and well thought out "Yes" case.

With respect, I do not support Senator Norris's amendment. I agree fully with the Minister that if we are proud to do the excellent job we have done in Lebanon and all the other missions throughout the world, there is no difference in committing our troops to the Balkans and to parts of Europe, particularly central and eastern Europe which will need help in different areas over the years. I see no difference in the principle or the practice of what we are proposing to do there. I am very proud of the contribution we have committed in terms of the rapid reaction force. It is a call-up army like the one the UN operates today. It is not an assembly of military, armaments and logistics in a central point ready to take on the world, which is the impression given by some of the contrarian view who are not concerned with the serious aspects of this issue.

The amendment should be defeated. The amendment, as written, is basically what was stated in the protocol by the Danish Parliament. The Danes are totally committed to NATO, they are a pro-NATO group. They pay a substantial amount of money each year out of their budget to contribute to NATO and they will not add to the burden of the Danish people the additional funding that would be necessary in terms of the changes needed for the European rapid reaction force.

We should be proud of what our Army has done in the past. Many people have talked about neutrality and I believe they are sincere in what they say, but they are wrong. We are involved in Partnership for Peace. At the time of joining PfP there was talk of losing our neutrality and changing our status, but that was probably the first time we joined an organisation which allowed us to set the menu. We were given 18 months or two years in which to set our own menu for our participation in PfP.

We would be utterly wrong not to get involved in supporting the rapid reaction force under the Treaty of Nice. It would be very good for the country. The professionalism at all levels of the Army and in the Department of Defence is superb and we will not be driven into doing something that will cause a third world war. We have the good sense and the professionalism to help where help is needed in areas where conflict is taking place. We should think about what the results of involvement will be and it is vitally important that we are involved in preparation for conflicts that might occur. I hope our involvement will mean that we will be able to prevent conflicts, such as those that have occurred in the recent past, occurring in the future. I disagree with the amendment proposed by Senator Norris.

I am glad to get the opportunity in this House – unfortunately I got only three minutes in the Lower House – to respond to this amendment. We had an hour long discussion on Committee Stage in that House. Deputy Gormley put his position and it took him half an hour to do so. I do not want to make further comment about that other than to say that I have a better opportunity here to deal with it more thoroughly, although the basic principle is the same.

The amendment is based on a wrong premise. As a result of the end of the Cold War a far more sophisticated infrastructure and architecture is being developed. We can no longer seek to have a discussion on these types of issues as if we are still in the 1960s when two competing ideological and military superpowers were vying for influence on the continent of Europe. That period is over. It was over long before the Treaty of Nice. It was over before the Treaty of Amsterdam and even before the Treaty of Maastricht. Unfortunately, conducting a debate as if this has not moved on greatly affects the ability to clarify the issues. It also imposes a paradigm on the debate which is irrelevant.

As regards the Danish protocol, it is interesting because, as Senators said, Denmark is a NATO country. It is more "Atlanticist" in its security outlook than other European countries which are also in NATO. As Senator Lanigan said, much defence expenditure is towards the pursuance of that policy position. We are not in NATO and will not be automatically dragged into it.

I am sure Senator Norris would accept the point that for any position to be valid it should be based on empirical evidence, not on notions of stealth or conspiracy. There is no conspiracy. Too often a point of view is put to portray democratic governments as a type of Establishment elite which is unaccountable to the wider masses. Governments are usually accused of this by those who do not have a democratic mandate, are not involved in Parliament and seek to suggest that the monopoly of wisdom resides in a small room of committed people who see through the deviousness of the body politic. That does a great dis service to parliamentarians and should not be imported without empirical evidence to back it up. Too often we allow that type of argument to enter at the expense of public life. There are no conspirators here. Deputies Gormley, Joe Higgins and Ó Caoláin are not conspirators.

The Minister is generous.

I do not divide the democratic mandate. By adopting that approach, we are making political progress on all parts of the island without undermining or diluting basic principles. When I hear people invoking conspiracy theories, I find it difficult to respond because I regard it as a poor premise on which to build an argument. Denmark did not wish to pursue further involvement outside NATO. That is a sovereign decision of the Danish Parliament and its people, which I respect.

As regards our foreign policy tradition, we must be clear about the basic principles. The primary role of the United Nations is basic as regards our approach to our involvement in international relations, both politically and in terms of peacekeeping where we have had an honourable and distinguished tradition. The primary role of the United Nations in international peace and security is recognised in the European treaties. There is no treaty basis for the line of argument adopted by the conspiracy theorists that the European Union, either by stealth or otherwise, is trying to recreate a second forum of order for international peace and security. It is important when we discuss this referendum or any referendum on the treaties of the European Union to have a treaty basis for what we are discussing because if we do not, we are conveniently overlooking the fact that it is the rule of law which determines how matters develop and evolve. There is a dynamic in policy, but it is based on treaty provision. The treaty provision about the primary role of the United Nations is recognised. There is, therefore, a synthesis which means we have nothing to be afraid of by becoming engaged on a policy basis with European security and defence policy.

The treaty basis for European security and defence policy lies in the Treaty of Amsterdam. There are only two changes in the Treaty of Nice in relation to the European security and defence policy treaty provisions. They relate to the specific reference to the political and security committee in the Treaty of Nice. It was not contained in the Treaty of Amsterdam. It is not a question of stealth, but of ensuring that what was the political committee, which has become the political and security committee whose centre will be in Brussels, will be directly accountable to and politically controlled by the General Affairs Council, that is, the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the European Union member states. The other provision relates to the European Union having and developing a capability in relation to the Petersberg tasks, crisis management and humanitarian involvement. This is an issue we are taking on board. It was originally envisaged that the Western European Union might do this on the behalf of the European Union. The treaty basis for that aspect of Western European Union activity has been established in the Treaty of Nice.

Too often when people talk about the capacity and capability being developed by the European Union in relation to security and defence they omit the fact that the treaty basis for that policy development is in the Treaty of Amsterdam which refers to the Petersberg Tasks. One can only utilise this capability under the rule of law, which is what democratic governments and institutions, such as the European Union, must abide by on the basis of the Petersberg Tasks. The militarisation argument must be posited in that context.

I said yesterday on Second Stage that a Green Party member of the European Parliament, Ms McKenna, went unchallenged by the media on national radio when she suggested that because the European Union, which includes both NATO and non-NATO members, is developing this capability for the Petersberg Tasks, it could use nuclear capability to develop security and defence policy. That is on the record and I have a tape of it. That cannot happen. It is as far away from the truth as the sun is from this planet, yet it was said by a Member of the European Parliament, one of the European Union institutions. She has a fundamental misunderstanding – I put that charitably – of what is involved in the development of security and defence policy. The problem is that people reached their conclusions on the matter prior to the development and evolution of this policy and are seeking to fit in these assertions and contentions, regardless of what is contained in the Treaty of Nice, the Treaty of Amsterdam or anything else. Then we wonder why there is confusion. If that level of confusion is in the mind of one European parliamentarian whom I know and heard in this member state, to what extent will we have a rational debate?

I welcome and revel in debate, but the purpose in being here is to clarify the issues, while respecting the differing and dissident voices. We must clarify the issues for the public whose intelligence we should not underestimate and whose discernment in many matters is greater than that for which it is given credit. I will take on the responsibility not simply of giving a bland statement on my position but of articulating and explaining it. People may agree or disagree with it. However, when others make such an assertion, which I admit is an extreme case, it cannot go unchallenged as it does a grave disservice to the debate for that type of tactic to be adopted.

There is an issue, which, although not germane to the Treaty of Nice, we should discuss. There is no change envisaged to the laws of the European Union which in any way contradicts or modifies in a substantive or formal way the Treaty of Amsterdam provisions on security and defence. People talk about the need to respect democracy. The democratic voice of the people was heard on these issues and we should not seek to ignore it. It is open to people to seek to change it, but there is no honest basis on which to do so because the decision has been taken. The Treaty of Nice gives no basis for overturning what was previously decided. If people disagree with it, they might try to express that point of view, but I am seeking to undermine their argument. If we want to use this opportunity to have a broader debate on all these issues that would be fine. However, let us make the distinction and let the people know what they are being asked to vote on and let them have a separate debate on other issues.

To safeguard people's concerns, I made a speech last week to, as I call them, the true Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Army. Any effort to involve Ireland in mutual defence guarantees would require a referendum in which the people would decide. No Government would do so by stealth because it would be against the law. Let us deal with the facts. When the Danes brought forward this protocol they excluded themselves from EU developments in order that they could devote their energies entirely to NATO involvement. Since we are not a member of NATO, by definition, the effect of the protocol would be to exclude us from EU developments in this area. That is the precise point for debate and discussion.

I disagree strongly.

It would be against our interests to do so. This is not a new position. It would be inconsistent with our foreign policy tradition, both in terms of membership of the European Union and as international peacekeepers. We have never sought to opt out of developments in the European Union consistent with our basic traditions. Specifically, because it has non-members as well as members of NATO, the European Union, which is not a military organisation, but a political one, wants to develop capabilities in crisis prevention strategies in a post-Cold War environment. It wants to ascertain how it can advance peace and security in Europe.

I have listened to the "No" lobby, which speaks properly in glowing terms of our role in peacekeeping outside Europe, but I have yet to hear what is the problem about doing the same in Europe. I contend that there is no problem. It might argue that the European Union, not the United Nations, would be involved. I counter that argument by saying that the primary role of the United Nations is recognised in the European treaties and that it is a requirement under the Defence Acts that we cannot involve a contingent of more than 12 personnel in any such operation without a UN mandate. There is no automatic change involved.

We are not getting involved in a process which will have Irish Army personnel somewhere we do not want them to be because it would be inconsistent with our foreign policy traditions. It could not arise because Irish Government representatives throughout the integration process ensured we negotiated a policy in a way that would allow for our full participation consistent with our foreign policy traditions. Because of some conspiracy theory, the "No" lobby finds it difficult to accept, appreciate or understand that democratic governments act in the interests of their own people.

We seek to shape our international obligations in a way that does not undermine our national interests or the basis upon which we involve ourselves in international fora like the United Nations. That is the reason we have Army personnel working on peacekeeping operations on behalf of the United Nations. Its argument takes no account of developments in peacekeeping in the United Nations. The Secretary General, Kofi Annan, a man held in the highest esteem here and in many parts of the world, and former Algerian Foreign Minister Brahimi know that they have to develop its peacekeeping operations. They have witnessed the undermining of UN peacekeeping in West Timor and Liberia where UN troops were taken hostage by factions, when their role was to keep those factions apart, to restore a degree of law and order and enable a political solution to evolve. It was clear that unless they improved their capability, preparations, logistics, organisational format and structure they were putting personnel at risk, not just of being taken hostage, but even of being killed. The credibility of the United Nations in peacekeeping operations has been put at risk because of insufficient resourcing, planning and operational capability in the UN system.

Exactly. I am grateful to the Minister for making my point.

The Government has been totally supportive. Now that the budgetary problems of the United Nations have been addressed, there are resources available to implement the Brahimi report recommendations, which we, as members of the Security Council, greatly support. I recognise the progress being made by the United Nations in making them a reality. The General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted the Brahimi report by way of Resolution 13.7 which speaks of the need to use regional organisations to implement the UN mandate in areas of conflict and difficulty. The European Union recognised its sheer impotence in being available to do what everyone was calling on the civilised world to do when the Kosovars were streaming out in their hundreds of thousands—

We will come to that.

—to impoverished countries such as Macedonia and Albania which had to meet humanitarian responsibilities.

I am happy to deal with that point.

It is clear that the European Union must develop a capability to respond properly to such cases and that is what rapid reaction involves. Plenty talk about it, but not enough do something about it. The European Union has that responsibility. We should be clear. Ireland wants to contribute to that process. That is mainstream Irish opinion. I will contest, contend and vigorously defend the point that the concept of neutrality is in no way undermined by this process.

Ireland has military neutrality in terms of our commitment never to join a mutual defence pact, but we were never ideologically neutral. We always saw the primacy and centrality of the United Nations in terms of maintaining peace and security and that continues. The synergy between the development of peacekeeping policy in the United Nations can be reflected precisely in the development of capability in the European Union, consistent with acknowledging the primary role of the United Nations and the United Nations seeking regional organisations to assist it in implementing mandates in regions of conflict.

This is the best explanation of the evolving security architecture I can give in terms of confirming the consistency of the Irish approach in these developments. I also find difficult the "No" lobby's idea that there cannot be a development of policy and that if there is a development of policy at all, it means a dilution of neutrality. The lobby is not talking about keeping Ireland neutral, but neutering Ireland. Its catchphrase is "opting out". My point is that on the basis of the Treaty of Amsterdam, on which there was a democratic decision, and the minimal changes in Ireland which reflect the reality of the development of the policy consistent with the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Treaty of Nice updates the provisions relevant in Ireland regarding the political and security committee and the Western European Union's reduced role because the European Union will now take on that capability. The Western European Union can keep its Article 5 and mutual defence guarantee. Ireland is not interested or involved, and will not be. The development of policy in this area does not mean dilution. It provides modern expression to implement one's policy in a way consistent with one's tradition.

I thank the Minister for his invigorating and energetic contribution. It added to the weight of the discussion and I am grateful to him for treating us with the intellectual seriousness the debate requires. I am glad that he accepts I have thought out, at least to a limited extent, my position. I admire the fact that the Minster is devoted to certain principles which he enunciated with a certain degree of alliteration. His devotion to the letter "c" is obvious. He invoked the possibility of a conspiracy theory which he wants to challenge with clarity and consistency. He also mentioned confusion.

I hope I am not part of a conspiracy theory. I maintain, however, that we are being led into a situation where we will be dominated in military decision making by NATO. There is no doubt about that whatsoever. We may not be able to see it, but the two American architects of the Partnership for Peace whom I quoted in an earlier debate were clear about it. The record of the other House refers to a visit by Deputies Gormley and Gregory – it was accepted by other Deputies, including Deputy Michael D. Higgins, that it was the case – to the headquarters of NATO where they asked if Partnership for Peace was a growing involvement in NATO. The response from the senior people in Brussels was that it was a stepping stone to NATO. As they were clear about it, I am not sure that it is fair to consider this a conspiracy theory. For our part, all we have said since Maastricht is that there is an incremental involvement; there is no doubt that we are getting increasingly close to NATO.

In terms of clarity and confusion, is it surprising that people are confused when the Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, said some years ago when in Opposition that the French would be in Killala, the Spanish in Bantry Bay, the Germans on Banna Strand and the British in the Curragh? Is that not a conspiracy theory? The Minister said that neutrality is not in danger and I am grateful for his reassurance. If it was in danger, there would be a referendum. I heard that before, however, from the Taoiseach when Leader of the Opposition.

That confirms what I said.

He said that joining the PfP without a referendum would be a serious breach of faith and fundamentally undemocratic, yet Ireland joined it without a referendum.

He changed his mind.

I am sure the Minister's indication is genuine and well meant, but I place it in the context that people may change their minds and decide that something has happened as a result of the incremental system and a referendum will not be necessary. The promise of a referendum was also included in the Fianna Fáil Party manifesto. Matters can, therefore, change. I am not the only person who is confused. There is also confusion in Government circles.

The Minister asked what was the problem with matters such as Partnership for Peace and NATO. I am not totally naive. If the Minister reads the record, he will note that I said yesterday and today that the Danes had passed the protocol and had it included in their arrangements despite the fact that they were in NATO. I acknowledged that Denmark was in NATO. I am, therefore, aware of it. It merely shows, however, that such a protocol can be achieved practically without destroying the treaties. I did not intend to suggest that we should join NATO in common with the Danes because it would be a grave error to do so.

As I am not competent to deal with the question raised by the Minister, I will have to rely on a more senior political authority. Perhaps the Minister has an adequate explanation regarding the issue of committing any more than 12 soldiers under the 1960 Act. This matter was raised in the other House where Deputy Michael D. Higgins said:

I do not believe that the Defence (Amendment) Act, 1960, for example, facilitates the involvement of Irish troops in tasks of the rapid reaction force in the way that the Minister stated on that occasion. The 1960 Act clearly states that more than 12 Irish soldiers can be committed to initiatives which have been established by the United Nations. Unfortunately, this does not fit the Minister's argument where, regarding tasks which might be undertaken, he made the point that they would secure UN approval. There is a huge difference between securing a mandateex post facto and actually conforming with the text of the 1960 Act which clearly indicates that one is talking about forces established by the UN. It seems to me that it is not possible to find a construction of it which would enable the phrase “established by the United Nations” to cover events and circumstances in which the United Nations had no part in initiating.

To me, as perhaps a person with an unsophisticated mind, that appears to raise a further problem that the Minister has not yet answered, although it may be that he is capable of producing an answer.

The Minister invoked the Brahimi report. For me, one of the most significant aspects of that report is the statement that few of the basic building blocks are in place for the United Nations to rapidly acquire and deploy the human and material resources required to mount any complex peace operation in the future. The Minister more or less indicated that was the case.

One of the reasons is that the strength of the United Nations has been depleted by NATO and such developments as the rapid reaction force and Partnership for Peace. They are draining resources away from it. I favour the inclusion of a protocol such as that secured by the Danes. They did it to allow them to contribute more directly, specifically and clearly to NATO. Ireland should involve itself in this protocol, not so that we can involve ourselves more directly in NATO, but in order that we can give all the virtue of our strength to the UN peacekeeping force.

I accept that the United Nations has been manipulatedex post facto by major forces such as the United States. The Minister made an interesting point with which I am in absolute agreement. He said that it is a great mistake to impose a Cold War paradigm on this treaty. He said that we are now involved in a more sophisticated defence architecture. Perhaps we are. The situation has, certainly, changed. Where is the enemy? We no longer have the great bloc of the Soviet Union. President Bush has reacted with a new glorified “Star Wars” system which is, one could say, a sophisticated architecture. However, I doubt that it will work technically. The previous effort was scientifically demonstrated to be a costly failure, although that did not worry the stockholders in the military industrial complex in America who were laughing all the way to the bank.

It is highly unlikely that any state will launch weapons, even one which President Bush, with no sense of irony, describes as a rogue state. Some of us think that under his direction the United States is well on the way to becoming a rogue state. It is much more likely to be somebody like the Palestinian bombers who go into the market of the Mahne Yehuda with dynamite strapped to their bodies. It is likely to be somebody with a case full of plutonium going into the basement of the World Trade Centre. "Star Wars" architecture will not solve that problem. The technology is a reponse to a new situation, but a foolish and expensive one and not one in which we should be involved.

I also wish to deal with humanitarian and peacekeeping duties, which are regularly invoked. I agree with the Minister that we should play a significant role in these areas. We have already done so in circumstances which were largely uncontroversial. We should continue doing such duties. As we are being led into NATO and Partnership for Peace, let us take a look at its role.

According to the AfrI document, which the Minister has read, there is an equally strong case for saying that NATO does not promote international peace and security. If it did, the document argues, it would be difficult to explain how it manages to tolerate Turkish massacres of tens of thousands of Kurds, the destruction of thousands of Kurdish villages and the creation of between two and three million Kurdish refugees or how it facilitates the ongoing Turkish bombing of Kurds in Iraq, the very people British and US forces are supposed to be protecting by the enforcement of a supposed no fly zone, but who are, in fact, bombed by Turkish planes with the active co-operation of British and US pilots. As Turkey is a NATO member and has pledged troops to the EU rapid reaction force, the failure to prevent its well documented atrocities, indeed the willingness to endorse them by weapons and other support, is as good an illustration as any of NATO's attitude towards peace, justice and human rights.

Let us look at the case of France, one of our neighbours. We are all capable of using phrases about humanitarian interests, peacekeeping and so forth. Look at the French in Rwanda. The French, under something calledOperation Turquoise, involved themselves in Rwanda during the final stages of the genocide. It was described as peacekeeping. France is one of our principal partners in this new European military arrangement. All France did, however, was facilitate the further sale of arms and continue in existence the genocidal Rwandan regime. We must be careful, therefore, about the language we use.

NATO has also been accused of using depleted uranium in Kosovo to which the Minister referred. The bombing campaign utilised cluster bombs, which attracted children, and depleted uranium shells. I was in Baghdad before Christmas. I am no supporter of the Iraqi regime, but we were told by people in Basra that there was a multiplier effect in cancer incidence, especially in children, as a result of the use of depleted uranium shells. Irish soldiers serving in Kosovo might have been exposed to this danger. Between the end of the war and March 2000, unexploded cluster bombs killed over 50 people in Kosovo.

According to an article inThe Observer by Mary Caulder, on 18 July 1999, the NATO intervention did not save one Kosovar Albanian, but provided a cover—

I am not here to defend NATO.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I remind the Senator that we are on Committee Stage.

Yes, and I am arguing clearly for my amendment.

I am not here to defend NATO.

That is a relief.

The Senator is building up a good relationship with AfrI.

Yes, AfrI is absolutely wonderful. The Senator knows the organisation well and I have placed its credentials on the record. I am extremely grateful to AfrI. I will not spend much longer on this topic, but look at what happened in Yugoslavia. Robin Blackburn said in an article that the Serbian delegation, under duress, had been willing to accept the principles of the Rambouillet package, save for the detailed 25th chapter on the NATO led occupation force. The clear implication, he said, was that the war was fought because of either a mix up or because NATO wanted a war to assert its predominant role in European military defence arrangements. Former US national security adviser, Sandy Berger, described bolstering the credibility of NATO as an objective in its own right of the Kosovo campaign. This is what happens when groups such as NATO are involved—

It is a good argument for developing capability within the European Union for humanitarian tasks and crisis management.

It is a good argument for developing our commitment to the United Nations.

Then let me respond.

If the Minister wishes. I wish to deal with a few other matters.

I will deal with the matter quickly. We are not here to discuss developments in NATO. There is a role in relation to co-operation that will develop between the European Union and NATO about which I will be specific. It is not about the policy of NATO. The relationship of NATO to the European security and defence policy stems from the fact that the European Union, which is not a military organisation, is likely to remain dependent on NATO infrastructural and transport capacity as the UN mandated operations such as SFOR and KFOR have shown.

If people wish to make the argument, as the "No" lobby does, that any association with NATO in some way contaminates the integrity of the processes being pursued by the European Union in trying to find a role for crisis management and humanitarian tasks, they, clearly, oppose SFOR and KFOR. As Herr Fischler said to his counterparts in the Irish Green Party at the Institute of European Affairs, perhaps they would like to talk to the NGOs working with SFOR and KFOR who are trying to rebuild a basic quality of life for the people who have been subjected to the awful turmoil that has taken place there. That is the logical outcome of that type of contention. It is not being challenged and not being thought through.

People have a view that Ireland should not bet involved in the European Union because it is not the United Nations. The next flimsy, muddled argument is that if there is any involvement by NATO in the operation, even if it is logistical in order that the European Union can use NATO assets to get a heavy transport capacity into an area where people are losing their lives or are being burnt out of their homes, it should not be done because the assets are owned by NATO. I am not interested in that ideology. Let us get down to the naked truth – behind that conten tion is an ideology which is doing a grave disservice to the concept these people claim they are trying to defend and expand, that is, peacekeeping.

Peacekeeping is not about Army personnel walking around in dangerous situations, ill prepared and unable to maintain the peace. It is not a nice place to be. There are many parts of the world in which such a lofty debate could not be held. We can do so because democracy has been hard won here. Many parts of the world, including parts of Europe, coming out from under a totalitarian regime, are struggling to achieve that status.

I know many – I cannot be specific on this – in the "No" lobby who have said no to most things. One issue on which I never heard too loud a no was that relating to the many working class families under Soviet influence. We were told then that was the socialist model we should follow. Let us get real.

I plead "not guilty" in that regard.

The Senator can plead "not guilty". Irish people are no fools. It is time some canards were nailed once and for all. There are people who wish to ferment confusion on this issue in order that they can use the political opportunities it provides for them to gain wider exposure. It is my opinion that confusion is the name of the game. Every time I try to debate specifics we end up in NATO country in a "Star Wars" missile compound in southern California. Let us deal with the real issue.

It is precisely because democratic governments are transparent that the role of the European and NATO relationship and the reason for its inclusion are specifically outlined in treaties. It is included to facilitate what is not a military organisation, that is, the European Union, to make a contribution which will affect people's lives. Such people when SFOR and KFOR enter their villages do not enter into the nuances or tricky arguments we are currently hearing from the "No" lobby. Those issues are irrelevant, not only to their national interests, but ours.

People are asking what would be the problem in voting "No" and suggesting that they could obtain a protocol even if it was not in their interests to have one and that no harm would be done. Is someone seriously suggesting to me that we would be thanked, taking account of the overall assessment of what this about – facilitating enlargement and allowing countries the potential given to us 30 years ago to bring prosperity and improvement to the lives of the people we represent – in voting "No" on this issue? Who would explain to the Czechoslovak and Polish people how our so-called generous, open, Christian and multi-ethnic country has become complacent and smug with a "go nowhere, take the money and run and provide the hand-off to everyone else" attitude? Is that what modern Ireland has become? The "No" lobby, which regards itself as the most progressive force in society, would regard me as a hick.

I plead "not guilty" in that regard also. The Minister is a good Laois-Offaly person.

I have to keep reminding the Senator that I am from Offaly and represent Laois-Offaly.

The Minister to continue without interruption, please.

The Senator has, by reason of his family, been absolved from the naked affiliation many of us have to our own counties despite the fact that we represent multi-county constituencies. I thank the Senator for stopping me midstream as I was raising the volume a little.

It was wonderful.

Let us debate aspects of this matter, but let us not over-amplify in the overall context of what we are trying to do what is in everybody's best interest.

I am amused by the attempts of the "No" lobby to speak for other countries which have their own democratically elected governments. I met the Hungarian Foreign Minister who is very happy with the Treaty of Nice, as is the Polish Foreign Minister and the Cypriot Foreign Minister. Let us be clear on this issue. Senator Doyle put the matter more succinctly. People are trying to tailgate their primary interests of attention by creating the conspiracy theory. For what reason? They wish to give validation to their view which, on the empirical evidence of the treaty, is not available to them. If someone wishes to talk about how the security architecture of Europe is to develop in the future by looking into a crystal ball and making certain contentions, they can do so, but they should not do so for the purpose of confusing what is at issue. We are having an excellent and proper debate on the wider issues involved, perhaps focusing on one particular aspect which in the overall measure of things, is not the central issue.

Once we leave here it will be our job to make sure the people know what the central issue is. People have lives to live and families to rear. We cannot accept a situation whereby many in the "No" lobby are trying to create the impression that we have certain luxuries and suggesting that problems will not arise if we vote "No". That is not how things operate in the real world and taking such a position would undermine our national interests for years to come. I will explain the reason. Does anybody believe that anybody trying to enter into the European Union for the purpose of improving their education possibilities or creating more jobs in their country would thank us for making this decision when we, including members of the "No" lobby, have told them all along that they have a legitimate expectation to become full and equal members of the European Union? There is intellectual dishonesty. People are trying to tailgate.

I welcome the debate on this issue. We live in a democracy and, however skewered I think people's views are, they have a right to express them. It is our job to deal with this issue and I am trying to do so as best I can. The document referred to contains many inaccuracies. I will not dominate the debate on this issue, but it states: "The Treaty of Nice is the first time the EU has taken ‘a responsibility for military affairs'". That is not correct. That was done in the Amsterdam Treaty, incorporating the Petersberg Tasks, accepted by the people in a referendum. We had an open debate on that issue during which doomsday scenarios were also spoken about. One must make an overall political assessment of what is in our interests, whatever hesitancies one might have about general policies moving in particular directions and whatever reassurances can be given by Government on the safeguards we have negotiated.

The Government and others are equally committed to ensuring our foreign policy traditions are maintained in order that we can participate fully. They are not mutually exclusive propositions. We have shaped policy. When one opts out, one does not shape any policy. What is the logical conclusion of what the "No" lobby are talking about? We have a treaty based on the Petersberg Tasks which is moving in a direction which allows for full participation by everyone in the European Union, NATO and non-NATO members alike, yet we are told we should opt out. For what reason? Should we allow others to shape our policy without our influence given our foreign policy tradition? That does not make sense. It is not sensible, logical nor consistent with the way we approach our membership of the European Union where we have, better than anyone else, adapted to the change in policy which has brought about the success we now enjoy. These are the facts. When the half-truth emerges let us see the follow-through and let the people decide whether it is in our interests. We will then see if it is mainstream opinion. I contend that it is not.

The document suggests that we are about to become involved in a major expansion of our defence budget. The White Paper on Defence issued last year clearly sets out the position and is being implemented successfully by the Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith. Investment in equipment for the Defence Forces will facilitate the protection of Irish peacekeepers. It is important that we invest in this equipment to protect our people and not, simply, give them the salute if they come back having made the ulti mate sacrifice. An example of this investment is the recent purchase of armoured personnel carriers. This spending is being financed from within existing budgets through savings on personnel costs. The reform of the Defence Forces has been argued and democratically debated. It is wrong and inaccurate, therefore, to make these statements without putting them in context. I say so, not because I question the intent—

It is inaccurate in the sense of context. However, I presume the Minister accepts the figures regarding vehicles.

No, I am making the point that—

The Minister is making the point that there is a lack of context.

Yes. We are investing in our military resources primarily to safeguard our people. We are not fools, nor are we naive. We are not sending the people concerned to Christmas parties. These are dangerous places. This investment comes from within existing resources by reforming current expenditure. This is entirely legitimate. The suggestion, therefore, of an expansion of the military budget is incorrect.

The Senator suggested that we would be drawn into a situation in which we would be dominated by others. The treaties and declarations contain confirmation that the decision-making autonomy of the European Union is not compromised. The decision-making autonomy of the European Union and NATO remain separate and distinct. The European Union's decision-making process is under political control. That is the process with which I am concerned.

When these ideas are floated, discussion and debate at government level brings about an end result to which everyone can sign up. We can look to the treaty provisions, and the provisions of the previous treaty, the origin of this policy, and confirm that the concerns expressed before we embarked on those discussions have been safeguarded. The objective of democratic debate is to clarify our concerns and negotiate in order that one does not undermine one's basic position. Doing so and participating fully are not mutually exclusive propositions because the policy is being shaped from the inside by countries such as Ireland which are making their presence felt and ensuring the European Unions's development in this area is consistent with everyone's foreign policy traditions, namely, crisis management strategies and humanitarian tasks, to which we can all sign up.

I ask Senator Norris to be brief. We have devoted considerable time to this amendment and I would not wish the House to become involved in repetition.

Thank you, a Chathaoirligh. I do not believe I have been repetitious.

I have been careful to avoid repetition and hope to do so in this contribution, which will, probably, be my last. This has been a useful debate. The Minister and my colleagues have done their best to clarify their positions with which I continue to disagree. I understand, however, the integrity of the Minister's position, although I continue to disagree with it.

The Minister is consistent in his devotion to the letter "c"– Christmas parties, conspiracy theories—

The Senator is being Joycean.

—and "commies" under the bed. If that is not a conspiracy theory, I do not know what is. I am not a member of any political party, not even the Communist Party.

I never suggested that the Senator was a member of a political party.

No, but the Minister indicated that there were "commies" under the bed.

No, I simply made the point that so-called progressive forces who say no to many matters were silent when the people who have emerged in these democracies were under the Soviet system.

I have been a consistent critic in this House and raised issues such as the detention of Raoul Wallenberg, the position of Soviet Jews—

That is not at issue.

—so I excuse myself from that group.

The Senator was never included in the first place.

I am consistent. There is a quandary, even for people like me, between what constitutes real defence and what we are defending. These instruments are incremental, even though they may not be new. The Minister is correct and some of us indicated as early as Maastricht that we were eroding our neutrality as we saw it. We are concerned that we may find ourselves committed unwittingly or unwillingly to supporting adventures such as those on which the French have consistently embarked. France is a major player in determining this policy.

I raised this issue in the University of Limerick two years ago where I encountered an extremely hostile response which was quite funny. One professor of European studies, or whatever he was, became so annoyed that he asked me what I would do if my mother was being raped by a Russian soldier. That would be difficult as she has been dead for the past 30 years.

What would the Senator do if his mother was alive?

I informed him of what the late Lytton Strachey said when asked by a board investigating his refusal as a pacifist to participate in the First World War. Strachey was asked what he would do if a Prussian officer attempted to rape his sister and replied in his high, lisping, stuttering tones, "I would attempt to interpose my own body".

This is ludicrous carry on.

I will return to more serious issues. The Minister gave the impression that these issues are open and transparent. I come back to the business of secrecy and will cite an article by Breda O'Brien which appeared inThe Irish Times on 23 September 2000, and which was quoted in the document. The article states that Javier Solana has pushed through measures severely limiting access to all documents concerning the European rapid reaction force apparently without any demur from Irish representatives. It goes on to indicate that most documents on the ERRF are inaccessible to parliamentarians, let alone the general public, contributing to the very limited scope for democratic oversight in this area that Deputy Michael D. Higgins, among others, has highlighted. The Minister stated that there was democratic accountability regarding all these matters. There is concern, however, even regarding democratic accountability.

It is perfectly appropriate to include NATO in the discussion of this amendment. Denis Thornton indicated that the creation of the rapid reaction force involves the intensification of the European Union's relationship with NATO and that top brass at NATO headquarters in Brussels have warned the Commission that any leaks will stop the flow of sensitive information.

I hope I am not seen as a conspiracy theorist, but I am concerned about the military-industrial complex. However, the most notable immediate impact of the bombing of Kosovo was a surge in the share prices of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and such companies. If one examines the personnel involved in such operations, one sees a close connection between the military-industrial complex and the political determinants of these actions.

The situation is similar to that referred to by Senator Ross during the week concerning the manner in which companies operate regarding block votes, the interpenetration of personnel between Smurfit, Bank of Ireland and so on and the way they all support each other. For example, the document cites Zbigniew Brzezinski, a lobbyist for NATO expansion.

He was Jimmy Carter's man. How old is he now?

He advises the Azerbaijan international operating group which comprises 12 companies, including Exxon and Amoco. We are right to be concerned. It is not just a loony left conspiracy. People have raised genuine concerns, but it appears that they will not be taken on board.

The Minister suggested that some people use concerns about neutrality and militarisation as a Trojan horse to upset the Nice treaty. He may well be right, but I am not one of them. I regard myself as European and strongly support enlargement. It is in our political, moral and financial interests.

The Senator should vote "Yes".

It is possible to continue with what the Minister rightly said were the most significant aspects of the treaty and which I strongly support. What the Danes have shown is that a protocol can be formulated without destroying the rest of the treaty. The fact that I raise concerns about the militarisation of the Union under an aspect of the treaty does not mean that I cannot take this position while simultaneously saying that, if the protocol is included, I will be happy and that I support the other aspects of the treaty.

I have given credit where it is due in the debate. It is wrong to crystallise my opposition to the Senator's position as opposition to a loony left conspiracy. There are so few left, it is, probably, legally difficult to gather sufficient numbers to form a conspiracy. That is more a legal than a political matter.

I wish to put two matters to the Senator. He must bear in mind that the belief that inserting a protocol would not undermine our interests is false and naive. It is very important for Ireland to be seen as unconditional in its preparedness to allow and facilitate enlargement to take place as quickly as applicant countries are in a position to take up full membership. The defeat of the treaty would greatly affect how enlargement will proceed. Any suggestion to the contrary flies in the face of political reality.

I was talking of amending, not defeating, it.

That is the first reason I cannot accept the amendment. The second is that it would deprive us of making the same valid and honourable contribution in Europe consistent with peacekeeping operations in the United Nations, with the UN mandate and within the same tradition with which we have made that honourable and proper contribution in the wider field under the United Nations before the European Union developed its capability.

Regarding the Defence Acts issue, it is important to make a distinction between organising capabilities and deployment. Let me clarify this matter because it is an important point. The rapid reaction force is a pool of capabilities like the standing arrangements for the United Nations. Under the Defence Acts, a UN mandate is not required to make a voluntary commitment to a pool of capabilities like we are doing in the headline goal. On deploying that capability, which is the essential political point and at which stage one exercises a sovereign decision, Ireland can only participate if the UN mandate establishing that force is in place. That clarifies that point. The idea that, under the Defence Acts, we will proceed in some way without that is contrary to the law. I make the important distinction between our being able to organise capabilities to participate in something on a voluntary headline goal basis and the act of deployment requiring UN involvement. That should provide further clarity and safeguards for those such as Deputy Michael D. Higgins, although he continues to disagree with me on this point. We had an exchange inThe Irish Times on it in which he stated that he still does not agree. I make the point clearly as far as our people within Government and the service are concerned. What I have stated is the intention and the law.

The rules and documents issue to which Javier Solana referred has not yet been agreed. It is true that security and defence issues cannot be conducted without some degree of restriction and access to information. That is clear. However, it is still part of the EU-NATO dialogue to secure agreement. There are complications. There are NATO members which are not EU members and there are EU members which are not members of NATO. We are clear on what we want and that discussion is ongoing.

I respect Javier Solana's view of neutrality as a concept. However, the fact that he says it or that someone else says it, such as Mr. Brzezinski, the former national security adviser of President Carter, an old Cold War warrior the relevance of whose thinking to the current world situation is debatable, is not relevant to our position. Others have a view on neutrality as a concept and on many other issues. This is our view to which we are entitled and for which we are respected. We saw how much we were respected for it in the Security Council elections last October. Not being part of military alliances gives us an opportunity to put a case and adopt a position which is respected, even by those who are members of military alliances. We have a role to play and play it constructively. We should not resile from the evolution of policy on this issue in the European arena, because we have a treaty basis with which we can be completely happy and which allows us to participate fully and on an equal basis while respecting foreign policy traditions.

There is an argument on this issue that I wish to tie down. Semantic arguments have been made about the distinctions between neutrality, non-aligned, non-allied and other stances. What matters is the substance. Austria, Finland and Sweden are not members of a military alliance and, like Ireland, not party to a mutual defence guarantee. Like Ireland, they have a long and substantive involvement in UN peacekeeping operations and make a positive contribution to the European security and defence policy. Like Ireland, they want to be in a better position to carry out humanitarian and crisis management tasks, and the Swedish Presidency has emphasised the civilian crisis management tasks which need to be developed. We are not developing a military capability in exclusion, but military and civil capabilities to exercise these tasks. It is not about putting soldiers in the field, but rebuilding civil administration and policing, establishing a judicial order and restoring the rule of law.

These are civil crisis management strategies which can and do work in the field, and the evidence of KFOR and SFOR in the Balkans, which have a NATO involvement, confirms this. That is the important point. Austria, Finland and Sweden, like Ireland, have not been isolationist when it has come to playing a role in peacekeeping and reconstruction after the terrible events in the Balkans in the past decade. The semantic issue is a non-issue and should not be used to divert attention from the real issue, which is the agreement by all four countries to participate fully because they are happy to work in this context. As that basic principle of full participation consistent with our traditions is put at risk by this protocol, it cannot be accepted by the House or the people.

Is the amendment being pressed?

Yes, it is being pressed. I thank the Minister for his clear and direct involvement in the argument. It was a useful debate.

Cuireadh an leasú

Amendment put.

Vótáil.

As Senator Norris who pressed the amendment and called a vote on that basis cannot provide two tellers for the Tá side, the division cannot proceed. I declare the question carried.

I was not asked, a Chathaoirligh. Senator Doyle indicated that she might be prepared to act as a teller in the interest of democracy. Senator O'Toole agreed to act as teller, but indicated that he would have to leave before 1 p.m. Perhaps you should ask Senator Doyle if she is still prepared to act as teller.

If Senator Norris can provide two tellers, we can proceed.

Senator Doyle, if she is agreeable, and I.

If it was in order on this amendment, on which l will support the Government, I would be prepared to act as a teller, rather than see the vote fall. I understood, however, that it would be a voice vote with Members standing.

If we had tellers, we would come to that.

I will act as a teller in the interests of democracy.

Will the Senators who are claiming a division please rise?

Senator Norris rose.

As fewer than five Members have risen, I declare the amendment defeated. The name of the Member dissenting will be recorded in the Official Report and Journal of Proceedings.

Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis diúltú don leasú.

Amendment declared lost.
Aontaíodh an Sceideal.
Schedule agreed to.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to a correction to the numbering of the amendments circulated on the white sheet. Amendment No.a2 should read amendment No. b1.

Aontaíodh Alt a 1.

Section 1 agreed to.
ALT 2.
SECTION 2.

Amendmentb1 is related to amendment No. a1 and both may be discussed together.

Tairgim leasú aa1:

Ar leathanach 4, líne 23, i bhfo-alt (1), "Ceathrú" a scriosadh agus "Dóú" a chur ina ionad.

I move amendment No.a1:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 23, to delete "-fourth" and substitute "-second".

I want to make my position quite clear. I want to ensure Article 29 of the Constitution can be amended following the passage of the necessary referendum in a few weeks time allowing us, as a nation, to ratify the Nice treaty, which is to accept the institutional reforms within the European Union to provide for enlargement of the European Union to central and eastern Europe.

If the Union and the Monnet-Schuman concept of Europe mean anything, the fragile new democracies in central and eastern Europe which have recently emerged from the ashes of totalitarian states will become part of the European project and, as was envisaged by the fathers of Europe, difficulties, problems and aggravations within Europe will be resolved around the table rather than through military action. In other words, the theory was that post the First and Second World Wars we would never face a third world war and our difficulties would be resolved politically rather than militarily.

If the concept of the European project means anything, central and eastern Europe must be part of it. What we will do in the referendum in June and the Government will do on our behalf in signing the Nice treaty on our behalf will allow the European Union to reform its institutions to provide for enlargement to central and eastern Europe. Unequivocally that must be done. Apart from the ideals of the European Union and the reason it was founded, I have no doubt that Ireland will benefit from an expanded Europe, as a net exporting country. There is huge potential through our skills, capacity and productivity to get into central and eastern Europe and be part of the growth of its economies. I hope these economies will learn a little from the good management of Ireland in the past decade as we turned our economy around. Europe is also about quality of life. Aside from the ideology behind expanding the European Uion towards central and eastern Europe, there is an advantage for Ireland economically.

I do not want anything we do here to jeopardise the passage of this Bill or the success of this amendment. This referendum is entitled the Twenty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001, because the Twenty-first, the Twenty-second and the Twenty-third amendment Bills were being dealt with together in both Houses last week. The proposed Twenty-second amendment Bill has been withdrawn due to lack of agreement. In effect the referendum on the Treaty of Nice on 7 June will ask the people to make the 23rd amendment to the Constitution, not the 24th, because there will not have been a 22nd.

I could have added to the complication by suggesting that Nice becomes the 23rd, and the one that passed through all Stages, yesterday or the day before, should become the 22nd. That would necessitate changing two pieces of legislation. I am trying to ensure that there is no challenge to the legitimacy of this Bill, if passed here as the 24th, when it is realistically as much the 50th or the 100th amendment of the Constitution, as it is the 24th. We have talked about "contrariants", those who have other objectives, apart from the genuine "No" camp. I do not want to leave any possibility of challenge to this legislation by calling it the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2001, when it will be the 23rd. If this is slotted in as the 22nd, as both my amendments are suggesting, then this removes the possibility of challenge from those who would thwart what we are trying to do.

I understand why Senator Doyle has tabled this amendment. I accept that it is intended to be helpful, to prevent a challenge to the constitutionality of the Bill, on enactment, when it is signed by the President. I assure her that this will not be the case if this amendment is not taken. I took legal advice on it this morning when I was notified of this amendment.

There is no Twelfth amendment to the Constitution because the substantive abortion amendment was defeated in 1992. The Thirteenth amendment followed this, rather than another Twelfth amendment Bill. What is involved here is that we are proposing the amendment, and on the basis of Senator Doyle's fears then the last 12 amendments to the Constitution could have been challenged. The legal advice is that this is not the case. On that point there is not a risk of challenge.

There is also the question of efficacy, as the Government proposes that the Minister for the Environment should sign the order to enable us to proceed with the amendment on a given date, which will be made known when the order is signed. There is already a document in publication at the moment and the referendum commission is preparing its documentation etc. The legal legitimacy of this Bill is not in question by not taking the amendment. I commend the Senator for her contribution on this issue, but on the grounds of legal incontestability, I intend to proceed with the Bill as it stands.

I have considered the possible precedent of the Twelfth amendment, but with respect to the Minister, maintain that it was a substantially different situation. The legislation for that amendment was passed through this House and put to the people. The amendment was then rejected, unlike the Twenty-second amendment which was not put to the people.

There is no Twenty-second amendment, and it will not be put to the people as was intended, for reasons that we do not have to go into here because we understand them. That is substantially different from a legal perspective, to a case where an amendment is put and rejected. On that basis I fear we are at risk of encouraging challenge. I do not want a groundswell of opinion to grow around that and pose a threat. There is a risk of anything being challenged, particularly on the Constitution. Let us look at the McKenna judgment and where that got us. Which of us would have called it?

Because I believe passionately in what the Minister is trying to do, I feel there is an element of risk in proceeding with a Bill which is entitled the Twenty-fourth amendment to the Constitution, but which will not be the 24th occasion on which we are proposing to amend our Constitution. The Twelfth amendment was the 12th occasion on which we proposed to amend it. The people rejected it, which is a different issue. I understand why the Minister refers to it, but I think there is a substantive difference.

To date, there have been 20 occasions on which amendments have been put by way of referendum to the people. The Minister is planning to add four more amendments to the Constitution by referenda provided for in the legislation we have been dealing with this week. Effectively only three will be added, as the proposed Twenty-second has been withdrawn. I understand and accept the reasons for this. That is quite different from an amendment going through this House and being put and rejected by the people. Hence I feel there is a weakness here and the potential risk of a challenge.

The Senator has put the case as she understands it and has taken her own advice on it. I have to take cognisance of the advice of the Attorney General to the Government and to the Parliamentary Counsel who deals with these matters on a regular basis. I am not dismissive of the issue raised, it is a fair point that the Senator has made, and one which I felt it necessary to take advice on. I recognise that it is a referendum Bill rather than a statutory Bill, but the advice I have received suggests unequivocally that the legality of the Bill would stand up to a challenge.

Were there any suggestion of risk whatever in the advice I got, I would have to take a different view, regardless of what would have to be done thereafter. It is the wording of the amendment, that the Treaty of Nice may be ratified by the people, which is the operative and important point. This is the substantive issue for interpretation by the Supreme Court, who are the sole interpreters of the Constitution. In constitutional compliance terms the main body of the Bill is inserted into the Constitution under Article 29.4. The point raised by the Senator regarding the accuracy of the title is not a fatal flaw, nor does it affect the legality of it. I take into account that this is the primary and important point and I am proceeding on the basis of the clear and unequivocal advice I have received.

Cuireadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh na focail a thairgtear a scriosadh."

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."

Cregan, JohnFitzgerald, Tom.Gibbons, Jim.Glennon, Jim.

Lanigan, Mick.Leonard, Ann.Ó Fearghail, Seán.

Níl

Burke, Paddy.Coghlan, Paul.Doyle, Avril.

Norris, David.Ridge, Thérèse.Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.

Tellers: Tá, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Gibbons; Níl, Senators Burke and A. Doyle.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.
Question declared carried.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhtas tar éis diúltú don leasú.
Amendment declared lost.
Níor tairgeadh leasú ab1.
Amendment No.b1 not moved.
Aontaíodh alt a 2.
Section 2 agreed to.
Aontaíodh an Teideal.
Title agreed to.
Tuariscíodh an Bille gan leasuithe agus glacadh é chun an breithniú deiridh a dhéanamh air.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go rithfear an Bille anois."
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister for his personal contribution both yesterday and today. It is noted that he took all Stages of the Bill and the other legislation necessitated to allow us to be in a position to put to referendum important questions in the weeks ahead. I wish the Government well in the outcome, particularly the Nice referendum. It has a difficult job ahead. To borrow that expressesion yet again, I ask it not to underestimate the contrarian lobby. While I am not criticising and I am prepared to debate with any genuine "No" campaigner whose point of disagreement is directly related to points in the treaty, I am strongly of the view that the Government particularly, but all of us who want to see the Nice treaty ratified, have an obligation to ensure a logical, well argued, rational case for the treaty receives the same media coverage, headlines and profile as the contrarian "No" lobby – I am not talking about the genuine "No" lobby. In relation to the ratification of the Nice treaty, and the others to a lesser extent, every aspect and political agenda raised throughout the various referendums and ratifications of treaties during the years is being trotted out again, the vast majority being totally irrelevant. It is a case of political agendas being tailgated on the debate on Nice to give certain individuals and small political parties headlines that their case does not deserve because of its irrelevancy to Nice, not because the issues in themselves may not be important, but which in the context of Nice are totally irrelevant in the main.

I urge the Government, particularly the Minister, to ensure the profile of rational, reasonable debate matches the irrelevant debate because, unfortunately, many of those in the media, particularly television, are not in a position to challenge the irrelevancies being used as arguments. They should be in a position to challenge irrelevancies in order that only the relevant arguments receive the headlines. Without that, we are failing to be democratic. If the Government has to pursue the "No" case with the same vigour as the "Yes" case, there is a democratic duty on the media and the press to ensure they concentrate their attention on the relevant arguments on both the "Yes" and "No" side, not the tailgaters who are looking for cheap headlines for some other political agenda that has nothing to do with Nice. I wish the Minister and the Government well in a difficult job.

I join Senator Doyle in expressing our appreciation of the way in which the Minister has dealt with the Bill in the past two days. There was an openness about it and he spoke straight from the hip. Every question addressed to him was answered openly in a way that I have not seen in the House previously. I thank him for this because this is a relevant amendment of the Constitution and I hope as a result of the Minister's contributions yesterday and today, the debate will be opened up. I sincerely hope the media will take into account what has been said by the Minister and every Member of the House in the past two days and that they will give this debate the coverage it deserves, not make the criticism, as was the case in the past, that there has been no debate on changes to the Constitution. Those in the media have the relative freedom to give expression to their thoughts, but sometimes the only contribution they make is to say that debate has not taken place on certain issues. If they do not take part in the debate, we fall down.

I thank the Minister for the way in which he has dealt with the Bill. I hope the contribution he made, and the opinions of those from other parties who contributed, will be taken into account in the debate in coming weeks.

I thank the Seanad which threw some light as well as heat – much of it, I admit, generated by me – on the debate, but it is always important to show some passion in relation to these matters. For too long Europe has been seen as some kind of laboratory exercise which is not relevant to us, but every family in the country has a keen interest in it.

We have seen during a national crisis, such as the foot and mouth disease outbreak in recent months, how people react, how responsible they can be and how much they participate in the collective effort to ensure a serious problem, which goes beyond party politics, is confronted on a national basis. The issues raised in the debate and the importance of the enactment of this referendum amendment are relevant to people's quality of life, prosperity, employment and livelihoods, but, unfortunately, for many reasons which must be discussed in the future of Europe debate, how that is communicated to the citizens in order that they see it as being directly relevant is a major challenge for democrats in the states of the European Union and one to which we must address our minds.

This referendum campaign enables us to make the general case again, the specific case of the Treaty of Nice and the context in which it operates in terms of developments in the European Union. It also enables us to try to recreate the nexus and enthusiasm which existed when we first joined the European Union in 1973 and people saw it as being directly relevant to their lives. Given that the European Union development has been such a success and one of the great experiments of governance in the history of the civi lised world, it is unfortunate that people find it difficult to see its relevance to their everyday lives. That should challenge us and make us discipline ourselves in our contributions to this debate in the next few weeks to make it directly relevant. We have had the technical detailed debate and there will be other details to which we will return during the debate. We must, however, deal with this issue.

The great enemy of this debate is not political opposition or the substance of the arguments of political opposition, but apathy. It is important that we are seen to dutifully and enthusiastically support this amendment because it facilitates enlargement. We need to communicate this to the people in order that others view us, as we view ourselves, as European, contributors and generous members who want the same opportunities to be available to others as were afforded to us when we became full members.

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.

Question put and agreed to.