If the Senator takes some of the organisations that I mentioned previously – NATO, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, the African Union, SADC, ASEAN, they are all organisations that have at different times been involved with NATO on certain projects but currently, as far as I know, probably are not. Perhaps one or two of them are, but most of them are not. We do have to ensure that we can work with credible international organisations when the case is justifiable.
Let me give an example of working with NATO, which some see as controversial. When the mission justifies it and it is consistent with Irish values and what Ireland wants to contribute to international peace and security, then we make decisions to co-operate with international organisations. We had Permanent Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan working with NATO on a demining programme which had a UN mandate. That is how the world works. Organisations work with each other to try to intervene. When we regard the mission as one consistent with our values and there is accountability around all of that, we can intervene. Most of the time the triple lock applies. To me, that is what neutrality means. It is active neutrality. We decide when and where we intervene. We have a system of checks and balances around that. We operate to a value system and to a model that respects international law and works for the most part under a UN mandate or a UN-approved mission. On the odd occasion we do that within the confines of the EU also. That is what has made Ireland as effective and as impactful as we have been in the past five or six decades.
When we choose to make an intervention, it is because of a humanitarian driver or value system that we espouse. That could be in the Mediterranean, a training mission in Mali, or a de-mining programme in Afghanistan. The partners we use are the partners that allow us to do the job most effectively. We do not necessarily take a principled stand because we do not like something else that the partner has done. For example, we do not always agree with the EU on everything, but we are an EU member and we work together. We are not a member of NATO. We are not proposing to be a member of NATO. That does not mean, however, that we cannot work in partnership with NATO on certain projects that are consistent with an Irish value system, from a foreign policy or defence perspective. That is all I am saying.
I will take the Senator's specific proposed amendments one after the other. I have answered the first one regarding "or has participated". We do not want to exclude organisations because they are not currently working on a UN mandate. Most organisations who work with the UN do so at different times, and at other times they will not be working with it. By excluding "has participated in", one would essentially only allow us to potentially deploy or work with organisations that are currently working under a UN mandate. That is unnecessarily restrictive.
On the second issue, the Senator wanted to remove the term "any international organisation". She wanted to replace it with "an international organisation under a UN mandate". In section 1 in the Defence Amendment Act 2006, any "international organisation" is defined as:
"(a) the United Nations,
(b) the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe,
(c) the European Union or any institution or body of the European Union, or
(d) any regional arrangement or agency that participates, or has participated, in operations as part of an International United Nations Force;"
That is a defined list of organisations. It does not open us up to any alliance, or anything like that. The Senator is most concerned about section 1(d), which states, "any regional arrangement or agency that participates, or has participated in, operations as part of an International United Nations Force." In order for one to participate in a UN force, one has to be credible, and one has to have been shown to be credible. That narrows down significantly the list of organisations to which we could potentially second people for duties as a military representative, filling an appointment, or posting outside the State. Most of the time, secondments are of individuals or small numbers of people being posted. If it were a larger contingent of permanent Defence Forces, other cheques and balances would apply. Most of the time, this refers to the triple lock, unless it is a specific humanitarian intervention or training intervention, which is not seen as a military intervention, per se. When a situation potentially involves arms, it would, from my understanding, require a triple lock.
I think I have addressed the key issues that the Senator has raised in those three proposed amendments. I will think about this debate between now and Report Stage, but honestly, we are quite well covered with the 2006 legislation. Changing it in the direction that these proposed amendments suggest could potentially exclude Ireland from making a constructive contribution when the Irish public might well want us to intervene in partnership with another international organisation that is credible.