Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002

Vol. 554 No. 4

An Bille um an Séú Leasú is Fiche ar an mBunreacht, 2002: Céim an Choiste Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002: Committee Stage.

First, I wish to deal with a procedural matter in relation to Bills to amend the Constitution. The substance of the debate on Committee Stage relates to the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment contained in the Schedule to the Bill. The sections of the Bill are merely technical. Therefore, in accordance with long standing practice, the sections are postponed until consideration of the Schedule has been completed. Is that agreed? Agreed.



Tairgim leasú a 3:

I gCuid 1, leathanach 7, líne 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 chaiteachais oibríochtúil a thig ó na bearta sin.',

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


I gCuid 2, leathanach 7, líne 20, 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. 3:

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 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 chaiteachais oibríochtúil a thig ó na bearta sin.',

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


In Part 2, page 6, line 20, 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 is, in effect, a Danish protocol. In the debate in this House on the last Nice treaty referendum I sought such an amendment but at that stage, with only two Green Party Members in the House, we did not have the numbers to get a vote. It will be quite different this afternoon and we will have a vote on this issue. In this regard, we are trying to give the lie to the Government's assertion that the Seville declarations deal with the thorny issue of Irish neutrality. I wish to state the position of my party clearly, as I have already stated it quite a number of times. Irish neutrality no longer exists. The fact is that we have sold out and that it has been progressively eroded over a number of treaties.

Undoubtedly, the Amsterdam treaty was the most significant treaty in terms of the erosion of Irish neutrality. The Government does not even call it "neutrality" but refers to it as "military neutrality". The Minister of State, Deputy Roche, treated us to one of the finest scaremongering speeches I have heard in this House for quite some time. He must rate as the greatest scaremongering hypocrite in this House, given his stance after the treaty, all of the record here and his current statement that we are playing with fire. I shall return to that later and we shall see how he will react.

Having attended the Convention on the Future of Europe and, I must concede, having a long-standing interest in European affairs, the Minister of State knows that the so-called neutrals, Sweden and Finland, no longer refer to themselves as neutral but as non-aligned. My question to the Minister of State is this: is Ireland a neutral state now or are we simply non-aligned? Let us be accurate and truthful about this. The Minister of State has spoken of truth. Let us have the truth and let us discuss it as openly as we can. This House is accountable to the Irish people and we should be honest with them.

There has been blatant dishonesty on the question of neutrality. Last week, two members of my party tried to highlight the hypocrisy of the Irish Government by protesting at Shannon Airport against the fact that military planes are landing at Shannon. Are these planes part of an attack on Iraq? We have repeatedly tried to get a debate in this House. It is quite amazing that no journalist has asked the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs about the Irish stance on a possible attack in Iraq. The British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, has been outlining his Government's position on this issue, as have Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schröder. However, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs say absolutely nothing on the matter.

In this amendment, we are trying to secure a Danish-type protocol. The Minister of State will immediately point out that Denmark is a member of NATO. This may be, but as a UN member state we should look to it as a way of dealing with military issues rather than to the EU. There is no escaping that the Treaty of Nice advances militarisation within the EU by creating the new Military and Security Committee. The Seville Declaration simply says we will have a referendum if we choose to join the military alliance. It states the obvious – that we are non-aligned – but it does not get us out of our commitments as part of the European Rapid Reaction Force – a force consisting of 60,000 military personnel which can operate 4,000 kilometres from EU borders.

This will not come cheap because, as the Minister may know, they are trying to create a force to rival that of the US. In my speech last night I quoted a phrase which is often heard in the European Parliament, namely, that Europe is an economic giant but a political dwarf. They are trying to create an economy to which the euro is central in terms of integration, but they are also trying to create a political giant with further integration and centralisation, a fundamental part of which is to create a military force.

The Green Party believes our defence should be realised as part of the UN. We have a proud and honourable tradition in the UN. Unfortunately, because of our commitments as part of the Partnership for Peace, the Petersberg Tasks and the J Articles we have had to slim down our UN commitments completely, including the cessation of our long involvement in the Lebanon which is regrettable.

This amendment reflects the belief the Green Party holds that Irish troops should only serve with the UN and that the EU should not develop a military wing. The EU's greatest achievement has been to bridge gaps between old war enemies through co-operation in peaceful endeavours. There is another way forward and we should not go down the military route. If the Government had been sincere, it would have inserted this type of protocol and insisted on it. At the very least it should have secured a promissory declaration which is how the Danish Government proceeded. The Maastricht treaty was rejected and the Danish Government secured the promissory declaration before it went back to get the treaty ratified and this declaration was attached as a protocol to the Amsterdam treaty. We do not have anything of the sort because the Seville Declaration means nothing in these terms. A protocol would be legally binding whereas the Seville Declaration is not – it does nothing. Throughout this campaign we will try to expose the hypocrisy and empty words of the Government.

Deputy Roche referred to the economic implications of this vote and there are many. This military might it is proposed to build will not come cheap, a fact that at least the Belgian Finance Minister, Mr. Didier Reynders, has recognised. At the moment the European Rapid Reaction Force is totally dependent on NATO hardware – it cannot go it alone. Mr. Reynders has proposed levying a new EU tax on all citizens in the EU. That is honest and upfront and something one will not get from this Government. The Government says it will not cost us but it will if we are to have the same military hardware as the US. Few Irish citizens will wish to pay such a tax at any time in the future.

The protocol says that we will not pay for operational expenditure. We see this as including any costs in the military or defence area including what the EU is terming "common costs". In mid-June 2002, European foreign ministers agreed at the General Affairs Council that non-military costs of EU military operations are to be financed from a common budget, while the military costs will be considered as individual costs and will be financed on a "costs lie where they fall" basis. Common costs for an EU-led operation include transport, administration, locally-hired personnel, communications, transport within the operational area of headquarters, barracks, public information, representation, hospitality and so on. We already know that inter-operability – bringing our Army up to scratch so it becomes inter-operable with NATO as part of the PfP so we can carry out the Petersberg Tasks – will cost a lot too. The Green Party does not want the Irish people to fund this. It is a reasonable request and a matter of morality because we have a proud tradition of neutrality.

We do not want to become involved in the European arms agency – another body that has been discussed in the convention on the future of Europe. This protocol is necessary. The Government should have included a protocol when negotiating the treaty. Not doing so exposes them as hypocrites on the question of neutrality which is why I move this amendment.

The Irish people should be very afraid because of some of the myths which have passed as high principles of governance or even morality, as Deputy Gormley claimed. I would have some understanding of Deputy Gormley's view if, when he advocates Ireland's non-involvement in any alliance, he similarly advocated that we equip ourselves to deal with the basic defence of the Irish people, which is the first duty of a Government. This is the first anniversary of the events of 11 September 2001 in New York. If the Irish-registered Ryanair jet which was subject to a hijack attempt in Stockholm a couple of weeks ago had been headed for Irish airspace, we would not have had the capacity to do anything about it. We would have had to rely on Britain or NATO or someone else.

Furthermore, if an aircraft takes off in Irish airspace and even if we know it is heading for Sellafield, we do not have the equipment or capacity to deal with it. The Deputy and his party cannot have it both ways. They cannot say we cannot be a member of an alliance and simultaneously say our Defence Forces should not be equipped to deal with all eventualities to protect the lives, well-being and property of Irish citizens. There has been too much political cowardice with people benefiting themselves because it is profitable to push that line. I hope, with my hand on my heart, that we do not have to come into this House at some stage in the future and talk about any horrendous events which may happen and for which we ourselves are not equipped to deal with. We have outdone each other in denuding the State of the basic clothes of self-defence. It is fine if people believe we should not join an alliance but let us be prepared at least to defend ourselves.

I find it extraordinary that the Green Party here talks as if it was speaking for the Green Party globally. The Green Party in Germany seems to take a far different view.

We do not do that.

It is extraordinary that Sinn Féin is not only in the same stable as the Tory Party but on the Mrs. Thatcher wing of the Tory Party. The one thing that broke the yoke of British control on this country was the European Union. Previously, when Britain devalued, we devalued. When their Chancellor of the Exchequer set new interest rates we had to reset ours. The European Union which gave us sovereignty and independence and which gave us the opportunity to get out from behind our island neighbour is being attacked by the right wing of the Tory Party and their fellow travellers in this instance, Sinn Féin. What nonsense we have to listen to in this regard.

I am worried about the large consensus that exists regarding neutrality. With the exception of a few people who have thought it out I do not believe it is based on any principles that people understand. I am speaking not just of political parties in the House but of the churches and many other people. We are all meant to genuflect in the same direction. I fear when any policy is elevated to such a high level without the principles being thought out and debated. That speaks volumes of us as a people no matter what the policy. Another fear is that if the argument is correct, and perhaps it is because I do not have the monopoly on wisdom, then it should not be departed from by stealth. We should understand the principles on which it is based. We should know what the policy is and on what basis it exists so that it is not departed from and we can spell it out.

The fifth and 13th Hague Conventions of 1907 set out the principles on which neutrality is based. As far as I can recall the basis is that we would be absolutely neutral as between all belligerents. We have never been neutral in that sense. Patrick Keating and others have done interesting research on this and have made a major contribution to how this has evolved in our psyche. People believe this is written into our constitution. It is not nor is it in any law. It is time we had proper debate in this House on a real White Paper on defence and security – not on what passed for a White Paper and was all about securing the minimum numbers possible on the pay roll and defence services and for keeping it under control. We need a proper debate on defence and security issues which are the concern of Members of the Oireachtas. These are the issues we should address. We are not addressing them but taking it as a given that they have been discussed and debated and that we all know the basis on which the principle is established. We do not. Some Members may have a highly developed views on this and I respect the views Deputy M. Higgins has expressed over the years. However, I do not believe most Members of this House or the Seanad have thought this out.

It is extraordinary that Deputy Gormley says we should look to the UN and not the EU. We should look to the United Nations for the authority to carry out certain exercises but should we look to the UN rather than the EU generally? The UN is controlled by Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States. Should we look to them and not the European Union where we have our own permanent place at the table? That is an extraordinary suggestion. The UN itself has argued that regional organisations will have to take on the responsibility of carrying out some of the UN mandates. That is what the Petersberg Tasks are all about and humanitarian tasks such as search and rescue. There could even be a role for regional organisations in terms of the environment.

Like Greenpeace.

Deputy Gormley is like other people to whom I have sat and listened who want to interrupt others because their argument has been exposed. The part of the Petersberg Tasks which say they would carry out the tasks of combat forces in crisis management on a case by case basis is proper and civilised. That is the business of government in which we are quite properly involved. It was passed by the people in the Amsterdam treaty.

Again, I find it extraordinary that a rapid reaction force to deal with events largely outside of the European Union, and by agreement we can agree whether we are involved or not in a particular exercise, should be denounced. It is a relatively modest force of 60,000. I cannot remember the actual figure for the total defence force of the Union but it is in the region of three million. Comparatively this is a small figure. Are Deputy Gormley and others suggesting that the European Union, through a rapid reaction force, would have no business getting involved in Srebrenica or some other form of Srebrenica? I hear scoffs from the back. When I was Minister for European Affairs I sat on radio and television panels and listened to people like the Tánaiste, when she was in Opposition, saying we should use our great moral authority of neutrality to talk sense to these people to bring an end to the terrible genocide. That is rubbish. Somebody had to go in there and sort it out.

The Deputy is the man for that.

It is everybody else's problem except ours. That is the moral issue. For us to elevate our own self-serving interests above the interests of suffering people is an abomination. Because that abomination had such widespread support I hope it does not fly in the face of God and that some calamity will some day present itself on our own doorstep. Then we would quickly see the wringers of hands and the mourners looking for somebody to come to give us succour. God help us then, but I hope there is some sort of rapid reaction force somewhere that will come to our assistance.

I am not an enthusiastic supporter regarding the extra wording being included by the Government in the new Bill, but it is the de facto situation and debunks the issue and elevates it to constitutional language. It clarifies the issue and makes it clear that if we are to participate in a common defence at some stage in the future we would have to put a vote to the people. Strangely, especially following the passing of the Good Friday Agreement, I do not think we would need any referendum to join NATO. Certainly we would not need one to join some alliance with Britain. Northern Ireland has been in NATO since 1949. Following the passing of the Good Friday Agreement we could probably do anything we wanted. However, if we want to join a European common defence, the only area that is actually spelled out, we would have to go to the people. Yet, this is the one area that people represent as a danger to our military neutrality. What a load of nonsense. It does not add up.

Denmark is an interesting case. Not only is Denmark a member of NATO, as Deputy Gormley pointed out, but it is not a full member of the Western European Union because it does not want to know about the Western European Union or the EU being involved in defence and security matters. Denmark wants NATO and nobody else. That is the Danish concern. Denmark is not concerned with defending any of the points raised by Deputy Gormley. Denmark is not a member of the Western European Union although it is a full member of NATO for the reason that it does not want any dilution. It wants NATO and nothing else. So, to quote Denmark as an example is quite extraordinary.

My final comment is on the following wording of the amendment moved by Deputy Gormley, "Ireland does not participate in the elaboration and implementation of decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications". There will be defence implications if we participate in an EU discussion about reducing the amount of arms produced in Europe. Are we to be prohibited from participating in such a discussion if we agree to this amendment? That is clearly what Deputy Gormley's amendment means.

I wish to make a second point about the use of the phrase "defence implications" in this amendment. It is quite legitimate for us to talk about common defence policy, as it is entirely different from common defence itself. The State, through its representatives in the Government, has the authority to participate in discussions on common defence policy, armaments or any other matter of interest to it. States have to take an interest in defence issues and I have no difficulty with this country discussing common defence policy with other friendly states. Common defence policy should not be confused with common defence; NATO is a common defence alliance, but the EU is not. An amendment that prohibits discussion of anything with "defence implications" is not very well thought out and I do not intend to support it.

Many people believe that the EU should not be involved in defence and security matters. No issue, in my opinion, is more central to the raison d'être of the Union than stability, security and defence. It should not be forgotten that 60 million Europeans, most of whom were in the prime of their lives, died in wars in the first half of the last century. Some Members of the House were alive at that time, although I was not. Both the First and Second World Wars started in Europe and shortly after the end of the latter war, a small number of European visionaries came together to declare that such wars must never be allowed to happen again. The resources of war, such as the steel from which weapons were fashioned and the coal which was used for energy in wartime, were pooled. The Common Market and the European Economic Community grew from the initial European Coal and Steel Community, and the European Community and the European Union developed later.

We cannot have prosperity without peace and stability. Instability will flourish in eastern Europe if we do not extend the privileges of membership to the applicant states. Some Members, as well as others outside this House, have said that enlargement can proceed without ratification of the Nice treaty, but that is not the case. The Amsterdam treaty provides that weighting in the Council of Ministers and representation on the European Commission have to be addressed if more than five member states are admitted. The treaty imposes a real restriction to the admission of more than five countries. We cannot choose between ten applicant countries that are equally well prepared, that meet the acquis communautaire, are fully democratic, have suffered to get their economies into shape, have changed their legislative bases and have applied for membership. It is not fair to leave one country out while bringing its neighbour in. Could there be a greater recipe for disorder and instability?

Many people believe such disorder will not happen again, but it happened in Yugoslavia in the last decade. We thought it would never happen, but it did. Extremists in many countries, including Austria, are constantly trying to drum up dissent. It takes very little for such people, whether they are on the right wing or on the left, to win a loyal following. We must not forget that millions of people cheered speeches made by Slobodan Milosevic on the steps of the Parliament Building in Belgrade. Perhaps they did not realise what they were letting themselves in for.

There is a terrible air of unreality in this House. Quite frankly, I sometimes feel I am in a minority in the House on these issues.

I am in a minority.

Not many Deputies support the nuclear powers. I agree with the Deputy.

Deputy Gormley supports nuclear powers, as long as it is done in the United Nations.

Is Russia a nuclear power? Is China a nuclear power?

I beg the Deputy's pardon—

Is the United States a nuclear power? Is France a nuclear power? Is the United Kingdom a nuclear power?

The United Nations is not a nuclear power.

The countries I have mentioned dominate the United Nations.

The UN is not a nuclear alliance.

What a load of bull.

The Deputy should cop himself on.

Is the European Union a nuclear alliance?

The EU is based on—

We have listened to such hypocrisy and nonsense.

We will see—

When the time comes and we are found to be denuded, we will see the true colour of the Green Party, the Sinn Féin Tories and their fellow travellers who have deprived us of the basic essentials to uphold our democracy. I oppose this amendment as it is hypocritical. It is time for us to speak up for the truth, as we perceive it, in this House. I respect the different views of certain Members, but I have to say I doubt their sincerity when they tell us they have a greater moral authority and when they build their arguments on sand rather than on a solid foundation.

It is a shame that there is such division in the House, but perhaps it is also useful that the division is used to address moral issues. I do not feel threatened by this Green Party amendment and I welcome this opportunity to discuss alternatives to it. The Labour Party was anxious to support the Forum on Europe, which elicited a number of anxieties and real issues that arose from the result of last year's referendum. It was quite clear at the forum that people are worried about Ireland's involvement in defence and military matters, particularly neutrality. Worries about transparency in relation to foreign policy, particularly defence policy, still arise. This is handled to some extent in the Europe Bill which will have to be processed before 9 October. My party's position is that it would be disingenuous to support this amendment, having negotiated with the Government about the inclusion of a specific reference to neutrality in the Constitution. We believe such a reference to be legally enforceable, achievable and within our remit. The alternative proposed today by the Green Party is not as easily enforceable legally and not as strictly within our jurisdiction.

Deputy Gay Mitchell knows why I have disagreed with him about neutrality for many years. It is not fair to suggest that the discussion is one between realists, who are militarists, and soft people, who believe in diplomacy. The Deputy mentioned the 60 million European people who died in wars in the last century, but I remind him of the interesting developments following the Second World War. Following the horrors of Dachau and other concentration camps, it was suggested that there was such a thing as an immutable basic universal human right, located in the human person. The human rights movement originated at this time and its great moral thrust came from the experiences I have mentioned.

A form of economics which was not based on individualism but on the reconstruction of the economics of Europe, developed between 1947 and 1977. It was based on Keynesian principles and was described as les trente glorieuses by the French school of economics. Under this form of economics, the state accepted responsibility for high levels of post-war unemployment, health issues, housing, public utilities and other matters. These 30 years were followed by les vingt douloureuses, 20 years of the rise of the right in Europe, the beating back of state regulations and state activity, an increase in individualism and, interestingly, the rise of war-like soundings. The period following the death of 60 million people is interesting as it contained the enormous waste of the deflection of resources into the Cold War, with the accompanying destruction of societies on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

This House has a responsibility. The Green Party and Sinn Féin are right to raise the status of diplomacy in an era of military posturings. The issue of transparency does arise because this is not a matter of our being neutral on paper. It is a matter of what transparency we allow for logistical discussions of defence co-operation and relationships within the European Union. There is nothing soft or vague about it. It is the stuff of Parliament and the public are right to be interested in it.

Tugadh tuairisc ar a ndearnadh; an Choiste do shuí arís.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.