The statutory authority for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas as part of an International Force is set out in Section 2 of the Defence (Amendment)(No. 2) Act, 1960 as amended by the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006. This provision is commonly referred to as the “triple lock”. However, personnel may be deployed for training, for humanitarian operations and for other such reasons under the authority of the Government in accordance with the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006, which formalised arrangements in this regard. Ireland’s policy in regard to the “triple lock” was most recently underpinned by the adoption by the people of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. Ireland’s act of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was reinforced by the associated national declaration which states “that the participation of contingents of the Irish Defence Forces in overseas operations, including those carried out under the European common security and defence policy requires (a) the authorisation of the operation by the Security Council or the General Assembly of the United Nations, (b) the agreement of the Irish Government, and (c) the approval of Dáil Éireann, in accordance with Irish law.”
The White Paper on Defence, which was published in 2000, has provided the policy framework for Defence for the past thirteen years. In the period since its publication there have been significant changes in the defence and security environment and the defence policy framework has continued to evolve. In this context, the Government decided that there is a requirement to prepare a new White Paper on Defence. This will provide the policy framework for Defence for the next decade.
A Green Paper on Defence was published yesterday. It will initiate a broad public consultative process, which will provide for members of the public and interest groups to input their views as part of the process of developing the new White Paper on Defence. In this context the Green Paper will engender discussion on all relevant matters including the triple lock. The Green Paper states “The approval procedures that govern the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force on overseas peace support operations, commonly known as the “triple lock”, comprise three requirements namely:
- the authorisation of the operation by the Security Council or General Assembly of the United Nations;
- a formal Government decision; and
- the approval of Dáil Éireann (There is no requirement for Dáil approval where, the international United Nations Force is unarmed, where the size of the Permanent Defence Force contingent does and will not exceed twelve members, or if the contingent is intended to replace in whole or in part or reinforce a contingent of the PDF serving outside of the State already serving as part of an International United Nations Force).
The legislative basis for the participation by the Permanent Defence Force in overseas peace support operations as part of an “International United Nations Force” was originally provided for by the Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1960. The legal provisions were updated in 1993 to permit participation in Chapter VII of the UN Charter. UN mandated operations mounted under this Chapter are commonly known as “peace enforcement” operations), missions and again in 2006 to take account of developments in peace support including the UN’s increased reliance on regional organisations, such as the EU, NATO and the African Union (AU). The requirements of the “triple lock” were formally set out in Ireland’s national declaration associated with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
The requirement for a UN resolution as part of the “triple lock” reflects the central importance of the UN in granting legitimacy to peace support and crisis management missions. At the same time, it also constitutes a self imposed, legal constraint on the State’s sovereignty in making decisions about the use of its armed forces. This could prevent the State from participating in a peace support operation. In 2003, the EU led peace support mission EUFOR Concordia in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, was welcomed in UN resolution 1371 in terms that did not conform to the requirements of the Defence Acts at that time. Accordingly, Ireland could not participate in the mission.
The benefits of a formal legislative requirement for UN authorisation must be weighed against the possibility that this constraint may lead to an inability to act on occasions where there is a pressing moral or security imperative and overwhelming international support to do so, but where UN sanction is not forthcoming, in circumstances where a veto is exercised by a permanent member of the Security Council acting in its own national interests. It is acknowledged that there is substantial public support for the triple lock mechanism and that, in practical terms, due to the size of our Defence Forces, the State only has a limited capacity to contribute to UN Missions. In real terms Ireland has, in the context of its size, punched above its weight and made a valuable, disproportionate contribution and, save for the example of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, has not been excluded from peace keeping engagements by the triple lock. On balance, the advantages of retaining the mechanism can be seen as outweighing the disadvantages. Having said that, it is an issue worthy of discussion in advance of the adoption of a new White Paper.