Permanent Structured Cooperation: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves Ireland’s participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation, pursuant to the provisions of section 3 of the Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.

In commending the motion, I firstly wish to confirm that the Government is fully satisfied that Ireland's participation in PESCO will enhance the capability of UN-mandated missions engaged in peacekeeping, conflict prevention or the strengthening of international security. This is in accordance with the principles specified in the charter of the United Nations, as required by section 3(2) of the 2009 Act. Yesterday, the Minister of State with responsibility for defence made a presentation and answered questions from members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence at which he set out the position on Ireland's intended participation in PESCO, subject to the approval of this House. It is also worth noting that the matter of Ireland's intention to participate in PESCO has been the subject of further extensive discussions. It has been the subject of European Council-----

Sorry to interrupt but will copies of the speech be circulated to Deputies?

I understand they will be. My apologies. If not, if my office is listening, it should get them here.

It is also worth noting that the matter of Ireland's intention to participate in PESCO has been the subject of further extensive discussions. It has been the subject of European Council and Foreign Affairs Council conclusions which have been debated and discussed in this House and its committees. It has also been considered through parliamentary questions, a Seanad Éireann Commencement matter and a Dáil Éireann Topical Issue debate.

The wider context is that the European Union and its immediate neighbourhood face new and ever more complex challenges. These threats to international peace and security are multidimensional and transnational in nature. No country or member state acting on its own can address such challenges - it requires collective co-operation. The European Union's global strategy makes clear, in the face of these new and emerging threats and challenges, that the Union and its member states must take more responsibility for their own security and that of their citizens. The United Nations has also relied on regional organisations to act on its behalf in their own neighbourhoods. Therefore debate on this topic has to be seen in the context of the current international security environment and the ever-changing complex and intertwined nature of threats to our citizens, individual states and to international peace and security. In this regard, PESCO is a crucial mechanism which provides a treaty-based framework designed to improve the means by which EU member states can participate jointly in projects. This is designed to develop capabilities that will enhance crisis management and peacekeeping operations under the common security and defence policy, CSDP.

CSDP is intended to provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civilian and military assets which may be used on missions outside the Union for peacekeeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. Up to now, however, the European Union's capacity to mount crisis management operations has been hampered by the absence of essential capabilities and the political will from member states to commit the required capabilities for CSDP operations. This House will be aware that Ireland has always strongly supported the development of the CSDP and of EU capacity to respond to international crises in support of the UN and has participated in all aspects of CSDP since it was established. Ireland is one of the leading contributors to common security and defence policy operations deployed under UN mandates or with the support of the UN. Ireland has 13 civilian experts serving in eight of the ten civilian CSDP missions, including Palestine, Somalia, Niger, Mali, Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo.

Some 80 members of the Defence Forces are currently serving with distinction in three of the six military CSDP missions, including in Mali, where I had the privilege of visiting them, Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Mediterranean with Operation Sophia. Ireland has contributed Defence Forces personnel to EU missions in Chad and had provided two mission commanders to the EU training mission in Somalia. Our membership of the European Union and the United Nations allows Ireland to deepen and sustain democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights through, among other things, participating in overseas peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions which in turn helps to make Ireland more safe and secure.

Participation in any PESCO project is entirely voluntary and it is a matter for each member state to decide for itself whether to participate on a case-by-case basis. While decisions remain to be taken on which PESCO projects we may wish to participate in, examples of the types of projects which Ireland is currently considering participating in include upgrade of maritime surveillance systems, development of unmanned underwater vehicles for protection of harbours and maritime systems, a centre of excellence for EU military training missions, and a cyber threats and incident response information sharing platform.

PESCO has had the strong endorsement of the United Nations, which is important to note because, in essence, the United Nations is about trying to maintain a positive impact on global stability and peacemaking. It is supportive of what the European Union is doing in that regard in the context of PESCO. Speaking at the informal meeting of defence Ministers in Estonia last October, the UN Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping supported the initiative as potentially providing additional capabilities for UN mandated operations. He repeated this point more recently in Vancouver at the UN Peace-Keeping Summit. PESCO is also a means of enhancing interoperability and, working with EU partners, ensuring that our troops are equipped with the latest and best equipment and training.

Participation in PESCO is provided for in the Treaty on European Union in Articles 42.6 and 46 and in Protocol 10. It was introduced under the Lisbon treaty and was voted upon by the Irish people. At Ireland’s insistence, PESCO's participation criteria expressly stipulate that PESCO will be undertaken in full compliance with the Treaty on European Union and the associated protocols. It fully respects constitutional provisions of all member states, including Ireland's. It is important to state that participation in PESCO has no implications for Ireland's policy of military neutrality or the triple lock on the deployment of Irish forces overseas, that is, a UN Security Council resolution or mandate, Government decision and Dáil approval.

This Government attaches great importance to our military neutrality. Over the past decades, successive Governments have restated their commitment to the policy and it remains as strong as ever under the current Government. That commitment was most recently set out in the White Paper on Defence which I published as Minister for Defence in August 2015. This reaffirmed that our policy of military neutrality remains a core element of Irish foreign policy, as had been previously re-articulated in the review of foreign policy entitled The Global Island which was published in January 2015. The Government is clear on our policy on military neutrality. We are also clear that participation in PESCO has no implications in that regard. Moreover, the protocols attaching to the Lisbon treaty specifically recognise Ireland’s policy of military neutrality where it is stated that "[t]he Lisbon Treaty does not affect or prejudice Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality".

PESCO also has absolutely nothing to do with the creation of an EU army. None of the treaties provides for or allows the creation of an EU army. PESCO is simply about making more binding commitments to each other to jointly develop military crisis management capabilities for use in support of CSDP operations. While the capabilities developed under PESCO can be used in CSDP operations, the deployment of those capabilities is still a matter for member states. PESCO will be implemented in full compliance with the Treaty on European Union and its protocols, respecting the constitutional provisions of the member states. Four other non-aligned EU member states - Austria, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden - are already committed to join PESCO.

PESCO was comprehensively debated in the context of the Lisbon treaty which was approved by the Irish people when they voted on the treaty in October 2009. PESCO was specifically referenced in the Lisbon treaty protocol to address the concerns of the Irish people and in Ireland’s national declaration. The legislation setting down Ireland’s approval process for PESCO was published in advance of that vote and enacted in November 2009.

Ireland, as a strong proponent of the important role the EU can play in support of international peace and security in support of the UN, wishes to remain fully engaged in all CSDP processes. Fully participating in these developments ensures that we continue to have a voice and that we can influence the evolution of all initiatives, including PESCO.

The question of whether Ireland is rushing into PESCO has been raised. I do not accept that this is the case. The notification was painstakingly discussed over a number of months. Irish officials were involved at every stage of the drafting process and the final text reflects their contribution. At all stages it was clear to partners that Irish participation was subject to a Government decision and Dáil approval and this is why Ireland did not sign the notification at the Foreign Affairs Council last month, when many other countries did.

It is particularly important that Ireland would move forward at the same time as our other EU partners, including in the security and defence domain, so as to protect our interests and values at a critical juncture in the future development of the European Union post-Brexit. PESCO is a key initiative in this regard. There are some misunderstandings which seem to have taken hold in some quarters regarding the commitments entered into by member states participating in PESCO. There is absolutely no commitment to increasing Ireland’s defence expenditure to 2% of Ireland’s GDP. The increase in real terms relates to meeting the agreed objectives of PESCO and not to Ireland’s overall defence budget. The figure of 2% referred to in the PESCO notification solely reflects a collective commitment by the participating member states to spend 2% of their defence expenditure on research and technology. This House will recognise that such a commitment would in Ireland’s case amount to a minuscule fraction of the figures heralded by some people who appear to be scaremongering in this regard.

Deputies will be aware that projected expenditure for the Department of Defence for the period 2018 to 2020 was set out on budget day. Nothing has changed in this respect except that PESCO will allow member states to pool resources with a view to achieving greater value for money with respect to their expenditure. All commitments are entered into "while respecting constitutional provisions of the member States". Ireland secured the inclusion of this wording as the Dáil is sovereign with respect to all decisions on expenditure.

A decision to participate in PESCO is entirely voluntary. Any decision to step out of PESCO would equally be entirely voluntary. However, a decision to leave would likely result in a member state having less influence on the direction of the EU common foreign and security policy as inevitably that member state would be seen as less committed to the CSDP.

The House will be aware of the ongoing debate on security and defence issues and on the future of the European Union. The EU’s global strategy makes clear that our union needs to take greater responsibility for its security and that of its citizens. Important contributions to this debate are being made, including most recently by President Macron of France and by EU Commission President Juncker. Brexit is clearly having an impact on the direction of the debate as well. Different views have been expressed across member states. Ireland will engage in the debate on the future of Europe in a constructive manner and in full respect for the treaties and Ireland’s Lisbon protocol which reflect our traditional policy of military neutrality and that is not going to change. Where we must disagree, we will make our position clear but this Government is committed to participating in CSDP to the greatest extent possible consistent with our values and constitutional provisions.

I believe that all members of this House are extremely proud of the contribution our Defence Forces make in support of international peace and security. Participation in PESCO will allow these men and women to gain access to the latest and best equipment and training.

This will help enhance their capabilities for peacekeeping operations and, above all, ensure their security and safety when deployed on some of the most challenging peacekeeping missions. When the Defence Forces are deployed overseas, they never do so alone. They always work in close co-operation with other countries. PESCO is a means of enhancing interoperability with project partners, enabling them to be even more effective at the peacekeeping for which they are renowned.

More than ever, with Brexit and emerging and increasing security challenges in our neighbourhood and beyond, it is important that the European Union can demonstrate unity and cohesiveness. To that end, in seeking the support of our EU colleagues on our priorities, it is important that we act in step in shared areas of concern, including security and defence initiatives such as PESCO. As I said, Ireland's participation in PESCO in no way diminishes or undermines our traditional policy of military neutrality; rather, Ireland's participation in PESCO will contribute to the enhancement of capabilities for UN-mandated missions engaged in peacekeeping, conflict prevention or the strengthening of international security in accordance with the principles of the UN charter. I commend the motion to the House.

I reiterate my support and that of my party for the motion and the Defence Forces and State in joining and engaging with PESCO. PESCO is not about creating a European army or undermining our neutrality, which is simply false. What it is about is deepening our co-operation with other member states with which we are already part of a union. It is about working together, building co-operation, sharing knowledge and ideas, pooling resources, generating better economies of scale, providing better training for members of the Defence Forces and, ultimately, ensuring peace and stability across the European Union for citizens to protect them. We can benefit from the shared funding of overseas missions. As I stated, we can share knowledge. There are activities at which we are very good in this country in terms of defence, but there are also activities at which other countries may be slightly better. Why not work together? Why not share knowledge? Why adopt an insular approach, close everybody out and just work among ourselves? When has that ever been the best idea?

The effects of joining PESCO are many and positive. It reinforces the fact that we are fully committed to the European Union and its ideals and values. We engaged in all aspects of the process and ensured the Irish voice and concerns were heard, as reflected in the draft. Particularly in the context of Brexit and in a post-Brexit scenario, it is extremely important that we, as a member state which is fully committed to the European Union, show our support for it and all of its values, including common security and defence policy, which we have had a huge role in developing. We will gain a lot from joining PESCO. We will have members of the Defence Forces who will be better trained and equipped and have more knowledge. They will ultimately be safer when they go on overseas missions to represent the country. There are many times when Members across the House laud the members of the Defence Forces for their fantastic work and humanitarian actions overseas, including on their peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions, a point I have made several times. The troops do not go overseas on a holiday. They go on extremely dangerous missions to protect innocent lives, represent the country and put their own lives at risk. They are sacrificing a lot in their lives and those of their families. Therefore, the last thing I want, as spokesperson on defence and somebody who advocates for the Defence Forces, is to send our troops overseas knowing that they have not been trained as best they can be. That is why working with other member states and gaining experience in working with other member states can leave us safe in the knowledge that we are providing the most up-to-date training we can for the Defence Forces. I do not understand how, on the one hand, someone can support our participation in overseas missions and accept that they are dangerous and, on the other, only want members of the Defence Forces to train at home and not engage with the defence forces of other member states. The two ideals do not marry. Marrying them does not make sense to me. Nobody on the other side of this debate has yet articulated how he or she can justify his or her position.

As mentioned, PESCO was referred to in the Lisbon treaty in 2009. We ratified that treaty. Therefore, this is not a new idea. It has been on the table for quite some time. Many Deputies have complained and articulated certain views to the effect they have not had an opportunity to brief themselves properly on PESCO, to discuss this issue or raise it with the Minister. I disagree. I have had an ample opportunity to brief myself on it. In holding my portfolio I have a duty to know how PESCO will work, what it is about and whether it is good for the country. Based on an informed position, having educated myself on it, I am of the firm belief it is a good idea. I am of the firm belief I had plenty of opportunities to engage with the Government on it, including by asking questions in this House and at the committee meeting yesterday. Therefore, I absolutely reject the contention that the debate has not been adequate. If, however, Members believe the debate has been inadequate, they may take comfort in the fact that joining PESCO will certainly require a more robust debate on defence in the future. That is something from which we have to learn in this House. I would certainly welcome having more time to debate defence issues. I do not believe enough time is allocated to debate many of the issues affecting the Defence Forces and defence policy. It is regrettable that many Members are probably not as up to speed on defence issues as they should be. It is potentially a failing of the House not to provide Members with adequate time, resources and materials with which to brief themselves. I would certainly welcome more time to debate such matters.

Part of the reason we co-operate with other member states and the key reason we engage in UN missions is that we want to contribute, as citizens of a member state of the European Union and as global citizens, to peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions to ensure peace and security across the globe. We are global citizens; we do not live in an insular society and are affected. We cannot adopt the approach that these are matters for other countries, not us. If our shores were threatened, we would very quickly look to other member states for assistance, rightly so. It should be a two-way process. Joining PESCO means that, as a state, we will have to up our game on defence issues. We will have to do more to ensure we have an up-to-date, modern, progressive and efficient defence policy and proper equipment to deal with the ever-changing threats the country faces and the ever-globalising environment in which the Defence Forces operate.

Many concerns have been raised by other groups. I have received correspondence and representations from citizens on this issue and the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, PANA. They are concerned that co-operating with and joining PESCO somehow undermines our neutrality, but I have yet to see any evidence of this from anybody in the House. We have a militarily neutral position which is constitutionally protected and the triple lock mechanism remains in place. We will only engage on a project by project basis. If any Member can lay before the House evidence of how neutrality is being undermined, not just rhetoric or an opinion, I will be all ears, but I have yet to see it.

There are many who suggest joining PESCO is somehow the start of the development or coming together of a European army. On reading the draft of the text and understanding what PESCO involves, I cannot understand how anybody can suggest it somehow implies a European army. If Members would like to lay before the House evidence which supports that suggestion, I will be all ears and will be very pleased to consider it.

Some Members have suggested we should not join PESCO and that we should stay out of it. There are a couple of reasons I believe that would be a bad move for the country. First, as I have stated, I believe it is our job and responsibility to ensure the Defence Forces are trained as best they can be. Not working with other member states, areas, people and armies with expertise is not just bad for the country and the Defence Forces, it is also reckless. We will ultimately put the lives of members of the Defence Forces in danger if we send them overseas in the knowledge that they have not been properly trained and could have been better trained. Not joining PESCO would send the wrong message to our partners, neighbours and friends across Europe. It would afford us less influence in dealing with the Common Security and Defence Policy. I absolutely agree. Not joining would show that we were less committed to working with other member states to ensure security and peace across the European Union. It would also leave us as an outlier in the European Union in defence matters.

It will leave us politically marginalised. It will deteriorate our own defence capacity because we will be working alone. Again, I see no argument as to why that would be a good thing and I think it would ultimately diminish our peacekeeping options, the very thing we hold dear. Citizens take huge pride in overseas missions in which the Defence Forces participate and Member after Member in this House across the board has lauded them as fantastic.

We need to give a commitment to this House that while we are joining PESCO and see the benefits of it, we also hear the concerns of Members and of some citizens and we will commit to more robust and extensive debate on defence policy and defence issues in this House and at committee level on a more regular basis. Deputy Brendan Smith, the committee Chairman, would have no difficulty with that. We also need to give a commitment in this House that we are prepared to review the PESCO arrangements on an ongoing basis to ensure that it always represents the best option, as it does right now, for this country. We must further give a commitment to Members in this House that there will be full engagement with all Members across the House on any project in which we participate to ensure there is, at best, the most consensus that we can achieve in terms of our participation in those projects.

There needs to be far better engagement in terms of parliamentary questions and notification to Members on an ongoing basis, perhaps in report form on a quarterly basis from the Department, as to how PESCO is working, what engagements we have with it and what is expected of us on an ongoing basis. Such a report would be most helpful to ensure that Members are the most up to date they can be and that there can be no argument that Members or citizens do not know what is going on. It is our job to be properly informed and some assistance from the Department, the Government and the Minister would be most appreciated.

It is very important to note that joining PESCO is very much supported by the Defence Forces. I congratulate and commend the work of the officials who have engaged on this throughout the process in terms of articulating the Irish position on neutrality, the constitutional provisions in terms of defence policy and airing the concerns some citizens and some Members of this House have. All those things were taken on board and the draft text reflects that.

One of the concerns raised at the committee yesterday was that joining PESCO requires us to increase defence spending. I have no difficulty with that. We need to increase defence spending. The defence budget is paltry. It does not allow us to build the proper capabilities we need. It does not allow us to run properly functioning Defence Forces. Other Members in this House come into the Chamber on a regular basis talking about how underfunded and under-resourced the Defence Forces are yet one of their big concerns is an increase in defence spending in the context of PESCO. How does one marry the two? I cannot. We need to increase defence spending. We are one of the lowest spenders in the European Union. One of the positives of joining PESCO is that it will force the Government and the Department to properly fund and resource the Defence Forces and properly develop a robust defence policy that will prepare the country and ensure it is protected and properly participating in the common security and defence policy across the European Union.

It is important to send the message to members of the Defence Forces that we very much support them in the work they do. We are very proud of the work they do and we want to work with them to ensure that they have access to the best information, knowledge and training. One of the key benefits of joining PESCO is that we will now be able to work with other member states in research and developing technologies across the defence sector. That is not about building weapons. It is about building knowledge and building technology in terms of surveillance to protect our waters and the State and building capacity to work with other member states in terms of sharing information in order to protect citizens and protect the State. As a small country we do not have the capacity to do all that ourselves. We will benefit from economies of scale. We will benefit from working with larger member states and their resources to conduct research and develop technologies we know we need.

One of the areas of vulnerability recently highlighted in the State, where every member state is vulnerable, is cybersecurity. We do not have the capacity or the capability to do all that research on our own. We need to work with other member states because cyberattacks do not know jurisdictions or boundaries. They work across all countries. We are all facing the same threats together. The notion that somehow this country is safe and untouchable has proven to be completely untrue. We know that we are not safe from cyberattacks and we know they can happen. Joining PESCO sends a very strong message, that we are aware of the threats, that we know there are multiple threats and that they are constantly changing and adapting. We know the threats are sophisticated but also that we are not alone as other member states face the same difficulties we face. This is about deepening co-operation, working with like-minded member states to ensure we can protect citizens and have the most up-to-date technology to try to combat the threats.

While there will always be difficulties and opposing views, in particular in the area of defence, which at times is quite emotive and is controversial, and while there are times when we will never agree on certain positions, coming from an informed position, having had an opportunity over an extended period to educate myself on what PESCO is about, what it involves and what the benefits are to the State and the Defence Forces, I have no difficulty in supporting and commending the motion. I ask other Members to consider very strongly how they can marry the two positions, first, that we will support the Defence Forces and that we want them to do overseas missions while on the other hand we do not want them to train or work with other countries and, second, how we want the Defence Forces to be properly funded and resourced yet we do not want to increase defence spending.

That is a fair point.

If any Member in this House can explain how to do that I would like to hear it.

It is because we like peace not war.

Equally, they should put evidence before the House to support any undermining of our neutrality or any suggestion that this is a common European army. If there is evidence for those two assertions then I urge that they would be placed before the House and we can deal with them.

I dealt with that.

To date, I have seen no evidence of either of those assertions.

I wish to share time with Deputy Crowe. I will take ten minutes and he will have five minutes.

I make no apology for supporting the Defence Forces overseas operations. The simplistic claptrap we heard from Deputy Lisa Chambers is a disgrace. It is obvious that she has not listened in this Chamber or in the committee to anything I or others have said. I know of nobody in this Dáil who wants the Defence Forces to run on a shoestring budget. Nobody in this Chamber wants Irish soldiers to be sent overseas without proper protection or equipment. Deputy Lisa Chambers should remember her own party's history, as it was responsible for sending soldiers overseas unprepared and ill equipped. What we have argued for in this Chamber is that the Defence Forces should be properly paid.

What has Deputy Ó Snodaigh's party's ever done for the Defence Forces? He should consider his own party's history.

Deputy Chambers should allow Deputy Ó Snodaigh to speak.

I can go a long way back into history-----

-----including the military coup carried out by Fianna Fáil in 1932.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh should address the motion.

This is relevant because it is the history of the Defence Forces. It has been an honourable history-----

Sinn Féin did not recognise the Defence Forces for years.

If Deputy Chambers wants a history lesson I can sit her down and give her one at some stage. I am a history teacher. I understand history.

I have a point of order.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh should please address the Chair.

I am sorry. I will address the Chair. Those of us in this Chamber want the Defence Forces to have the equipment, pay and conditions and protection required when they carry out humanitarian operations overseas as part of their laudable history of peacekeeping. It is when one starts interfering with the sovereignty and neutrality of the Irish State in the way outlined in the motion that we start to have a very serious problem. The Government is trying to push through a motion which is being presented as if it is one of the many European Defence Agency or other military motions. It is a case of there is nothing to see, move on. Deputy Crowe and I introduced a Topical Issue on the matter. Out of the blue, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, indicated to the European Union that the Government would sign up to PESCO. There was no expectation of that. It was out of sync.

I am not surprised because that is the agenda of Fine Gael. However, it came out of the blue at the time. We know of this agenda because it was apparent at the time of the first Lisbon treaty referendum. That was the first attempt by the two parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, to pull the wool over the eyes of the Irish electorate. When voters rejected it the parties cobbled together a triple lock. I was active during the debate on the two referendum campaigns and I argued that the triple lock was no more than an attempt to bamboozle the public, and that is what happened.

I believe the motion before the House is in direct violation of Article 29.4.9o of the Constitution. That provision holds that a Government cannot adopt any EU decision that would create a European common defence mechanism. I realise the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Defence are not present, but I am not complaining about the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach. The Minister for Defence is the Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, and people should remember that this falls fully on his table.

We are moving in the direction of a European common defence. Each step that has been taken in recent years has moved towards that end. One need only listen to the comments of European Commission President, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker. He made these remarks on 17 September, so I am not going back into history. He said that he foresees a fully-fledged defence union by 2025. I have before me the Commission infograph and I can give it to the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, if he so wishes. The document suggests that a particular area might be a chief area by 2021. There is an agenda and the sequence is laid out nicely for us in the document as it is exactly where they want to go. That is another lesson that people can look at to see the intention of the European Union bureaucrats and their representatives.

I have no wish for the Defence Forces or our foreign policy to be in any way subservient to the EU or NATO, but that is what we are doing. I have no wish for Ireland to be a cog in an ever-increasing military structure or for our money to be diverted from the social fund into military research and development. We had that argument in the House not long ago.

Increasingly, we are going to become dependent on an EU military programme that will not be under our control. Part of the PESCO arrangement is that there will be oversight by others of our defence spend. Our independence and sovereignty is being undermined.

It is also intended that we would be involved in enforcing peace. One need only go back to the Lisbon treaty and the changes made at the time. We were told that was not something we would ever have to sign up for. Yet, that is exactly the type of mission PESCO and the battlegroups undertake. I am sorry - I gather I cannot use the term "battlegroups". It seems it was a bad title to give the arrangement. Apparently, it was a mistake and those involved should not have let the cat out of the bag in that way.

Deputy Chambers was present for some of the proceedings of the committee. It was not really a committee, rather it was a question-and-answer session with a Minister of State. We could not bring in any experts - I include the Minister of State in that cohort because he could not even answer half of the questions. Why now? What is the rush? Why do it at all? Such were the questions asked by virtually everyone, but the Minister of State did not give any proper answers.

The EU army may not necessarily be called the "EU Army" any more than the Irish Army is called the Army, because it is called the Defence Forces. Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker has said that if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then what else could it be? That is what it is. It is an EU army with a military structure and a headquarters.

Conveniently, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces was touted as the person who would be in charge. He did not get the job but those responsible still put him forward for it. There is an EU military headquarters. What is that? It is an army headquarters. An army has soldiers and equipment and continuously increases its operations.

The problem with the operations and the people who are dictating all of this is that they are the same people who are former imperialists. Imperialist adventures are still afoot in Africa today. In whose interests is it to invade or force peace in different states in Africa? It is in the interests of the same people who are at the top of the agenda in terms of pushing PESCO.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, argued that people are mistaking the position on the 2% requirement and said that the only mention of 2% relates to research. I am sorry, but he is wrong. The 2% that we have discussed is the 2% level of spending that President Donald Trump told the NATO countries that they had to achieve, if not exceed. Even if we took it that we were increasing our military spend to the EU average, we would be increasing the military spend by the State threefold or fourfold. We should increase our spend, but we should do it when we can afford it and when we have addressed the other major social ills. We should do it to increase the pay and conditions of those in the Defence Forces first and foremost. Then, we should look at ensuring that they are properly protected and that they have the proper equipment. However, we should not do it at a time when there are people dying of the streets of Dublin and Cork.

What would it take to achieve the 2% level of spending sought by President Donald Trump and the NATO countries, the vast majority of which control the agenda of PESCO? The relevant figure is €2.5 billion rather than the €500 million being spent at the moment. That might come under the Department of Defence Vote, as the Minister suggested yesterday. Everything in this House comes under one Vote or another. We are not arguing that point, but we maintain that someone else will be pulling the strings and setting the agenda for us and our military spend in future. I hope the Dáil will reject PESCO as an attack on our neutrality.

On Monday 13 November, 22 EU defence ministers signed the permanent structured co-operation agreement, known as PESCO. Ireland was not one of the 22 to sign up, but today we are debating and voting on Ireland's involvement in what will be an EU army.

Once again, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are joining forces to try to ram through and fast-track a debate that will undermine Ireland's neutrality without sufficient debate and scrutiny by the Oireachtas and the public. Considering the lip service of these parties to Irish neutrality and the popularity of Irish neutrality among the public, this approach comes as no surprise. I am particularly disappointed and aggrieved with the behaviour of members of the so-called Independent Alliance, who not long ago shared these Opposition benches with us. When in opposition, they repeatedly and loudly spoke out in favour of Irish neutrality. Two years ago, they supported a Bill to hold a referendum enshrining neutrality in Bunreacht na hÉireann. Shortly afterwards, they supported Deputy Wallace's Bill to affirm Ireland's neutrality in the Constitution by adherence to the provisions of the 1907 Hague Convention on neutrality. The same people now sit at the Cabinet table. They had the opportunity to stop this two weeks ago but not one of them had the moral courage or the resolve to speak out, stand up for Irish neutrality and vote against this departure. Perhaps they did not hear or chose not to listen to Frederica Mogherini, who said that the dream of creating an EU defence union was no longer a dream, but had now become a reality.

PESCO will lead to the creation of an EU army. It is everything we predicted it would be during the Lisbon treaty debates. This is not about anti-terrorist measures and keeping people safe, as the Government spin would have it. There is already co-operation in the justice and policing area for that end. This is about creating an EU army to complement NATO and an EU defence union to enrich weapon makers and dealers.

Despite being attacked by the establishment parties and a compliant media as scaremongers, we again have been proven correct on the dangerous and increased militarist direction that the EU has taken as well as on the priority it is now placing on militarisation projects. During the debate the official statement of the Government was that the Lisbon treaty does not affect or prejudice Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. We knew this was entirely bogus at the time and events and actions have proven that we were correct.

Yesterday the Taoiseach told the House that PESCO was nothing new and just part of the Lisbon treaty. It is not some benign humanitarian force. Its mandate, as outlined in the Lisbon treaty, includes the requirement for participating states to make troops available for deployment as part of PESCO missions. There is no arrangement for opting in or out.

Ireland's deeper integration into the European Union's military system is completely unacceptable and not wanted by the vast majority of Irish people. If the motion is passed, the fight against PESCO will not end. Ireland's involvement in PESCO would violate Article 29.4.9° of Bunreacht na hÉireann which states the Government cannot adopt any European Union decision that would create an EU common defence, as outlined in Article 42 of the Lisbon treaty. A constitutional challenge is guaranteed and the courts will rule on this matter.

I find it particularly disturbing that the Government and the European Union argue that they do not have any spare money for positive social and economic programmes such as youth employment projects, community regeneration and improving public services, for example, health care and supports for children and adults with special needs, yet they have announced that €1.5 billion will be spent each year on a regressive military project to ultimately facilitate a standing EU army. PESCO's own benchmark is to increase defence investment expenditure by 20%. We have serious housing, homelessness and health crises which are getting worse every week. The Government states it has no additional money to tackle social and economic problems, yet it can miraculously find millions of euro to buy weapons. I know where my priorities for investment lie.

It is time to end this farce by voting against Ireland joining this EU army. We must have a referendum to enshrine neutrality in Bunreacht na hÉireann. The Government must give the people their democratic say on neutrality once and for all.

This debate reminds me of the Government's attitude to the use of Lariam. It states there is no problem with the drug, despite clear evidence to the contrary. One only needs to speak to one of the soldiers who have taken Lariam and whose lives have been destroyed by it. The Government seems to operate in a parallel reality in which it sees no problem with joining PESCO, whereas the truth is much different.

The Labour Party is calling on the Government to halt a vote on Ireland involvement in the permanent structured cooperation, PESCO, arrangement as we have not had a sufficient national debate on the matter. The impact of joining PESCO could fundamentally alter Ireland's sovereign defence policy and history of neutrality for decades to come. It is too important a matter to rush through a vote as the Government is attempting to do in this manner this week against a false deadline. The Labour Party has been asking for a debate on this issue since June when my party leader, Deputy Brendan Howlin, asked the Taoiseach to outline his approach on security and defence issues, including his view on enhanced integration at European Union level. We have noticed that the Taoiseach always carefully parses his words on this matter, focusing on security and speaking very little about defence. In June he made the following statement in the Dáil:

I will offer Ireland's continuing solidarity and our strong commitment to working closely with our partners in combating this growing threat. The meeting will send out a strong message that Europe stands united and firm against terrorism, hatred and violent extremism.

No one has any problem with this statement as we all stand united against the threat of extremism and terrorism and know that there are threats to global and regional security. In recent years new threats have been added to old ones, which is further complicating an already complex picture of regional security. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, competition for natural resources, energy dependence, climate change, failed states, terrorism, cyberattacks, erosion of regional and global arms control agreements, disinformation campaigns and organised crime continue to be important threats and challenges which Europe must address. They are diverse and affect member states in different ways, which explains the difficulty in reaching a common position in countering them. It is vital, therefore, that member states spend more time evaluating these threats and challenges. The Government is not giving us more time, however, despite calls from this side for several months that the issue be discussed in the Dáil and examined properly by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence. By this, I do not mean a box ticking exercise such as that which occurred yesterday.

With this plan the European Commission is proposing to add €500 million of EU funds in 2019 and 2020 to finance EU defence research and new military development. After 2020 the figure will increase to €1.5 billion every year for research and the development of new military technology. This plan clearly amounts to overt militarisation of the European Union. The video released by the European Union in support of PESCO is more like a movie trailer for "Top Gun 2" than anything else. I agree with the assessment of Deputy Mick Wallace, whose contribution on the issue alerted me to the video, that it glorifies military expenditure on fighter jets, battleships and heavy weaponry. Notwithstanding the Taoiseach's comment that joining PESCO would not mean that we would enter the market for heavy weaponry or warships, this video, the language used by the Commission and the intentions of some of our EU partner states are such that an increasingly militarised European Union is clearly an objective. We do not want Ireland to be clipped to the tail of this wagon and dragged inexorably towards an EU army. The promotional video demonstrates the real motivation behind PESCO and we need to stand fast against it now by applying the brakes and returning to first principles with regard to the Defence Forces. This requires that we invest in our current personnel and ensure they are being paid enough and do not have to rely on family income supplement, as 20% of members of the Defence Forces currently do.

We must modernise barracks and thereby improve the professional working environment for the men and women of the Defence Forces. We must also invest in promoting greater participation by women and minority communities in the ranks. We first need to get our own house in order before moving towards any other iteration of purpose for the Defence Forces. To this end, we should further promote our reputation for participating in peacekeeping and rescue missions. We should make Ireland a shining example in Europe for making conflict zones safe, saving lives and working to end wars and conflict. We have a proud record in disarmament as the architects of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the 1960s. We led the charge at the United Nations and have continued throughout the history of the United Nations to strengthen and re-energise it through the new agenda coalition in the 1990s and, more recently, playing a key role in pushing for a conference on a Middle East nuclear free zone. Sadly, the proposed conference did not take place. Ireland also hosted the cluster munitions conference in 2009. Despite our size, we have always been a world leader in promoting peace and disarmament and have never supported militarisation. We are not a member of NATO and do not take a triumphalist, macho view of our military strength. We take pride in the role the Defence Forces have played in providing real leadership in the toughest of tasks, namely, maintaining peace, providing help for the most vulnerable and standing up for global nuclear disarmament.

In an increasingly insecure world people do not want more bombs, bullets and jets. They want developed nations to set an example as peacekeepers and peacemakers. Ireland can be one such nation. However, the European Council has clearly taken steps to intensify co-operation on defence matters and a plan is in place to expand the range of common military activities undertaken. This has been designed to complement NATO structures, but Ireland is not a member of NATO. What is its position on these steps which have been driven by France and Germany in a move towards enhanced military integration which has been embraced wholeheartedly by the European Commission? This approach is gathering pace as a result of the exit from the European Union of the United Kingdom which had traditionally opposed it, viewing any co-operation under the umbrella of the European Union as a duplication of NATO activities.

Let us a have a proper debate on this issue. Given the Government's commitment to having commissions and committees, let us have a committee on national defence strategy in the context of the militarisation of the European Union. The issue could be addressed by the joint committee which could hear from all stakeholders. Let us bring in the Defence Forces to get their views. Let us bring in PANA and speak to academics, defence experts and the disarmament section in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Give us, as politicians and public representatives who hold dear the principle of neutrality and peace, a chance to engage in a real debate on this matter. At a minimum, we must have a full debate in the House. We call on the Government to stop this move and remove the need for a vote from the Order Paper. It is making a grave error in pushing for a vote this week.

I firmly believe this. The Minister needs to go back to the Council and say Ireland is not ready. We have not discussed this thoroughly enough.

We do not always have to be the good boys and girls in Europe. We can say "No" on matters that fundamentally go against the grain for our island. It does not make us any less committed to the core EU project, the maintenance of peace on our Continent, the free movement of people and trade and working together for a prosperous and social Europe. This does provide work on common foreign and security policies but it does not necessarily mean we need a common defence policy which requires military build-up.

If we go through with this vote and, it seems, with Fianna Fáil support confirmed today, the Government and the people of Ireland will look back on this in years to come as the moment we crossed the precipice and moved Ireland in the direction of militarisation of the EU. It may take a few more incremental steps after this one but, as the old saying goes, "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step". This is a significant step today, if it happens.

We do not want to make this journey. We cannot be bounced or cajoled, or indeed tricked, into this process without rigorous debate. This comes down to trust. The Government is asking this House to rubber-stamp a commitment to PESCO without a full and robust debate, without a proper committee hearing and without hearing from outside experts. The Government is asking us to trust it that Ireland can opt in or opt out of particular elements of PESCO which suits us. We do not believe such an à la carte approach will work in the real world. Such promises and assurances cannot be taken on faith alone without a debate.

Five of the eight groupings in the Dáil supported a motion to delay this vote but we in the Labour Party were shocked to see Fianna Fáil support the Government in pushing this through. The debate was not about the pros and cons of PESCO but about giving this House more time to discuss it properly, and Fianna Fáil voted with the Government. It did not merely abstain, as it has done in the past but it voted with the Government against the amending motion, which is put forward by Deputy Boyd Barrett but reflects the views expressed at the Business Committee as to what should happen. The so-called architects of Ireland's historic neutrality stance seem ready and willing to roll the dice on the militarisation of the European Union. This is astonishing.

I again call on the Minister to withdraw the motion. He should tell the EU that the Irish Parliament is not satisfied and that we require a proper debate through the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence. This 11 December deadline is a false one. We can join at any time. That is legally the case. On many occasions, the Minister has been asked to justify the deadline and he has failed miserably to do so. There is no deadline of 11 December. We can join at any time. That is a fact. The Minister should reject it and come back to us. If he believes in new politics, he should bring this back to us and let us discuss it through the defence committee and in this House.

I wish to share time with Deputy Bríd Smith.

The Government is pulling a fast one here and Fianna Fáil is collaborating, indeed colluding with it in that. That should be no surprise. Fianna Fáil brought eternal shame on this country in allowing the US military use Shannon Airport to prosecute the criminal US assault on Iraq which resulted in as many as 1 million deaths, 4 million people forced to flee their homes, the absolute destruction of Iraqi society and, ultimately, laid the seeds for the destabilisation of Syria that is now unfolding in the most horrific way. All of those matters are directly connected. We facilitated that, and the two major parties in this country supported it - to the tune of well over 1 million troops going through Shannon to prosecute that horrific war. It should come as no surprise that the two main parties that pretend to be in opposition to one another are now also colluding in further abandoning our military neutrality as part of joining up to the evolving European army and the development and reinforcement of the European military industrial complex. It is shameful.

The process behind this was deeply cynical. The decision to sign off on this was made on 14 November and then confirmed at the Cabinet on 21 November. The Government knew, but the Chief Whip did not indicate to the Business Committee, despite several meetings taking place, that there was any intention to put this on the agenda for a vote, and then turned up this week, on Monday, stating, we were to have a vote on joining PESCO. The Business Committee orders the business of the Dáil and gives indications at least two weeks in advance of something happening. At neither of those meetings did the Government give any signal that this was coming up. Deputy Clare Daly raised the question of what was happening with PESCO and there was not a word from the Government about a vote. This was deliberate. The Government gambled that, given all the focus on Brexit and the rush of legislation in the past couple of weeks, this story would be buried and ignored by the media. It has largely succeeded in doing that.

It is shameful because this is the biggest move away from our military neutrality since the momentous and disastrous decision to facilitate the US military at Shannon during the Iraq war in the teeth of overwhelming public opposition, reflected in one of the biggest demonstrations that ever happened in the history of the State and clearly in opinion polls. Every opinion poll that has been taken on it shows that the people oppose that decision. This decision is the biggest departure from military neutrality since that decision.

The Government is now seeking to deceive us as to the real content of this motion. Let me read from the EU fact sheet on PESCO. It refers to, "enhanced coordination, increased investment in defence and cooperation in developing defence capabilities". It goes on, "The difference between PESCO and other forms of cooperation is the binding nature of the commitments undertaken by participating Member States". Deputy Lisa Chambers, who was looking for evidence, should read the fact sheet. The "binding nature" is the difference. It goes on to state, "It will be a driver for integration in the field of defence". What is a common defence, which is precluded in the Constitution? It states that this will be a driver for integration of a common defence.

The fact sheet goes on to state that there will be implementation plans that will be subject to regular assessment. The PESCO body in the European Union will tell us whether or not we are meeting the binding commitments to ramp up military expenditure and involve ourselves in the PESCO project. The fact sheet could not be more explicit, stating, "This is different from the voluntary approach that is currently the rule within the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy". It is not the voluntary approach, which the Minister claimed it was. It is not voluntary; it is binding. We are moving into a binding enhanced defence pact.

When one looks at what the major architects are saying about this, it is absolutely clear what they are talking about. One need only look at who the main players are. President Macron of France is talking about putting boots on the ground in Libya, as if they did not do enough damage there. One looks at the destruction of Libya as a result of French and western bombing of that country and the refugee disaster that has come from it. Now they are talking about further exacerbating that.

I will repeat the quote from the President of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk. He specifically referred to the objective of PESCO as "to protect the bloc from the effects of the migrant crisis, hostile bordering states and forces that risk tearing the bloc apart". It does not get more explicit and, frankly, disgusting than that. What does he mean by "protect ... from the effects of the migrant crisis"? It means a military machine to stop desperate people fleeing from Libya, Syria and other places in which the west was responsible for causing the initial chaos. Now we are going to ramp up military defence and be part of keeping those people out. What are the "hostile bordering states" for which we need this common defence policy and to increase military expenditure?

There is no doubt that this is an abandonment of our neutrality and a move into a common defence. I believe it is unconstitutional. It is counter to Article 29.4.9° of the Constitution and it should be challenged. We will have to seriously consider challenging it on constitutional grounds if the Government refuses to pull back from this shameful decision to abandon Ireland's military neutrality.

I thank Deputies Boyd Barrett, Ó Snodaigh, Healy and Clare Daly - I apologise if I have omitted anybody - because without the voice of the Opposition demanding a debate on this and continually raising it this week both at the Business Committee and on the floor of the House, we would not be having this debate. It was clear that the Government did not want to have a discussion and that this was being quickly sneaked through. Without those Deputies we would not be having this discussion.

It is remarkable that defence spending will jump from €900 million per year to between €3 billion and €4 billion per year. It is remarkable given that this is a day after we lost another homeless woman on the streets of this State. We cannot house the homeless and we cannot provide pension equality for people who are retiring. We are told it cannot be done because it would cost €70 million. Suddenly, however, we can find all these billions to fund arms. We need homes and decent pensions; we do not need arms. The aim of this measure is not about keeping us safe from terrorism. The terrorism is what is going on here.

I listened to what the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Deputies said. They believe this is about co-operation and genuine peacekeeping but the reality is that it is about co-operation with NATO and more involvement in spending on the European Defence Fund. Deputy Lisa Chambers and others refuse to see that it is about the creation of a European army. The word "army" means aggression. It means tackling problems with arms, bombs, bullets, guns and heavy machinery. That is something Fine Gael has always supported but our Constitution and our people are clear that we are not aggressors. If we are peacekeepers, we are not being paranoid or hysterical about this. We were painted that way by the Tánaiste this morning, but there is nothing hysterical or paranoid about it. The elite in Europe must be delighted that it is giving us its backing and solidarity on Brexit and that we will support the elite on this destruction and the capacity it will give it to create a big army across Europe.

This is about military intervention. We should reflect on the military intervention of the great imperial powers of Europe and what it has done in terms of humanitarianism. At present, we are seeing the re-emergence of slavery in Libya. Europe has a pact with Libya whereby Europe pays it to keep refugees inside Libya. It pays Libya to keep the people who are being held up for sale by marketeers - "Buy this young man. He is a good strong young man and you can bid for him now." It is a return to the heavy old days prior to the American and French revolutions when there were no such things as liberty, equality and fraternity. That is where the population of the world that is fleeing destitution, famine and war is heading, caused in no small measure by military intervention in the past by the French, British and Portuguese when they scrambled for Africa and the Middle East and left a legacy of terrorism behind them. This latest move is being driven by the same interests, particularly of current French and German imperialism.

European humanitarian credentials are with the more than 30,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean and those imprisoned in the condemned camps of Libya, Macedonia, Greece and elsewhere. People are being raped, abused, tortured and starved in these camps and we pay for that to happen because we pay those states to keep the people there. Those are our humanitarian credentials. We are jumping from that to spending a pile of money on militarism and saying that we wish to support this European project. We want to back this racist, brutal European project on the basis that PESCO is supposed to be about keeping us safe from terrorism. However, it is about entrapping tens of thousands of people in the most miserable conditions.

I will conclude with a comment on the soldiers, sailors and military personnel of this country. They know the reality of serving in the Defence Forces. We have discussed it in the House but they live it. That reality is living on impoverished wages and in bad conditions. Many personnel must rely on family income supplement and many of them had their families outside the gates of Leinster House last week protesting against the poverty wages, the conditions in which they live, the lack of payment for overtime and the closure of barracks which meant they had to move many miles away from their original homes. They do not get travel allowance and many personnel have admitted that they have had to live in their cars because they cannot afford the obnoxious and inflated rents throughout the State. We cannot take our Defence Forces personnel out of poverty and give them decent wages and conditions but, overnight, we can increase our defence budget to support a European aggression project and NATO.

Finally, shame on the Minister, the Government and particularly the Independent Alliance Members who are propping up the Government if we are forced to vote on this today. The record of Deputies Finian McGrath and John Halligan is one of being on the side of anti-imperialism, standing with the anti-war movement, opposing troops in Shannon and opposing the type of NATO project which this measure will support. They should think twice before they allow the Government to push ahead with the vote in these circumstances. This requires a great deal of public debate and legislative scrutiny. We want to know if the Attorney General has given the Government advice on the constitutionality of this move. The Government must answer questions before it forces this down the throat of the Irish public.

We are diving straight into this madness when we have almost zero detail, and nothing official in writing, about what this could mean for Ireland's neutrality. Instead of facts, the briefing document contains vague threats about us playing ball with the EU or else we cannot protect our interests within the Union. This vague language of ultimatum is unhelpful when discussing Ireland taking part in the expansion of the global arms trade. We must have details. What is PESCO and what will it do?

The notion that the public has been informed about this because it was an aspect of the Lisbon treaty in 2009 is nonsense. I was in a café this morning and I asked six people who came in whether they knew what PESCO is. They were people who would generally be well informed on most matters but none of them knew what I was talking about. They did not know what PESCO was. It is unbelievable of Fianna Fáil to thank the Government for articulating the position. Perhaps I missed it but I did not hear it mentioned on the "Morning Ireland" programme on the last two mornings. Perhaps it was mentioned, but I do not listen to the full programme. I did not see all the news programme last night but I did not hear it mentioned. Perhaps I missed that as well. Deputy Brendan Ryan pointed out that there were six groups on the Business Committee who wanted this matter postponed until after Christmas. Two did not. This is what new politics is. I had a different interpretation of what new politics is supposed to be but obviously I was wrong.

With regard to the details of PESCO, where will the weapons that will be bought with moneys from the fund be used? Will it be investing in weapons and technology to be used against civilians? For a few years now Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Germany have been dropping bombs in Syria. Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, France, Denmark and Belgium all took part in the disastrous military campaign against Libya in 2011 which was one of the maddest wars in history. When we argued about it here, we were told by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that it was a good idea. Whether we like it, we are signing up with a bunch of warmongers. How can we guarantee that PESCO will remain separate from the wars of aggression in which our European neighbours are very fond of being involved? If one reads the multitude of briefing and research documents written by consultants for the defence industry, one will see that they all open with the same lines - "Because of Brexit and the unreliability of Trump to provide Europe with a defence, Europe needs to start taking responsibility for its own defence". That is precisely the rubbish the Taoiseach threw at me yesterday.

Let us look at the facts. In the 16 years of never-ending wars of aggression since 2001, when we let it use Shannon Airport in bombing Afghanistan, the United States has done nothing short of destroying huge sections of the Middle East and North Africa, in the process killing between 1 million and 2 million civilians who had no involvement in the war efforts, driving millions more from their homes and radicalising many of those who stayed behind who, in turn, drove out or killed many of those who had stayed behind and refused to be radicalised. It has trained and armed extremist rebel groups at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and illegally invaded over 100 countries nearly every year for the last ten. That is a fact. In 2015 alone President Obama signed the death warrants of people in 134 countries, people who never saw a courtroom. The United States has expanded the drone programme to terrorise and bomb civilians everywhere it is operational. The United States arms and supports brutal dictators, tells lies about them when it suits and invades their countries, in the process destabilising them in order that everything will descend into chaos. Nothing has changed under President Trump. In fact, the arms industry loves him. The United States sold $42 billion worth of arms to the rest of the world in 2017, up €10 billion on the previous year. Aerospace and defence industry stocks have risen in value by more than 40% since November 2016. The Taoiseach says we do not want to rely on the United States to carry out these war crimes, that the European Union has to start doing it for itself. Do what exactly - emulate the record of the United States?

That the European Union needs to start taking responsibility for its defence is nonsense. Last year it spent 1.4% of GDP on defence. This amounts to roughly €200 billion, more than the amount spent by China or Russia, and second only to the amount spent by the United States. It hardly needs to beef up its defence spending. On what, in God's name, are we going to be spending the money when PESCO is fully up and running? Where are we going to use the weapons? Tackling cyber-crime and providing better gear for our peacekeepers will only cost so much. It would be great if we were prepared to put some money into defence. Would it not be great if we actually gave it to those involved in it, the Defence Forces, instead of asking their members to live on a pittance, given that many of them depend on supplements from the State to survive and feed their families?

Fianna Fáil has raised the issue, but how can anyone argue that our neutrality is under threat? I will ask Fianna Fáil a question. Let us suppose there is a change of Government after the next general election and it decides to let the Russians use Shannon Airport for military purposes. Would anyone here try to make the argument that we were still neutral? If we were to let the Russians use Shannon Airport for military purposes, would we still be neutral? What do Members think? Would they think we were still neutral? No, they would not. We are letting the US military use Shannon Airport to bomb the homes of people in other regions. We are not neutral and it is total nonsense to say we are. God help us and save us. I do not understand it. In fairness, I give the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, Deputy Simon Coveney, a little credit for being straight because both of them would prefer to be able to say, "No, we are not neutral. We are actually happy to be in the US military's camp. We are two out and out hawks and comfortable with it." However, they have not got there yet and do not yet want to say it because it has not been the language they have been using. They might upset Fianna Fáil which would prefer to pretend until the end of its days that we are neutral.

Patently, the fact that we are here is not an exercise in democratic scrutiny by the House. It is nothing more than a manoeuvre to avoid effective scrutiny of this measure, not just by this House but also among the broader public. There is no doubt in my mind that this is happening because the political establishment has learned lessons from the last time people were given information - on the Lisbon treaty and so on - therefore, it is better to keep them in the dark.

I am so shocked by some of the stuff that has happened this week that I still cannot get my head around it. The Government has valiantly been trying to pitch PESCO as nothing for us to worry about, something Ireland to which can sign up without any impact on our policy of neutrality. That is comforting - not - coming from people who have undermined so much our neutrality. As Deputy Brendan Ryan said, there is no reason this decision could not be delayed. If the Government is so confident that it can stand over the arguments for and answer questions on this issue, why are we ramming it through today? The questions have not been answered - the silence is the answer.

The Government tells us that PESCO does not mean that we are joining a European army, despite the fact that in September Mr. Macron specifically called for the establishment of an EU intervention force that would by 2020 give the European Union autonomous capacity to take action. He said that in order to achieve this, a good place to start would be with what the European Union has already approved, a common defence fund and PESCO. While the Government sneers at the fears of some in this House and among the broader public, if they get to hear about it, that this potentially will involve Ireland in a European army, let us not forget that when the Taoiseach met Mr. Macron a few weeks after his bold statements on the creation of a European army, he gave him full support, with defence being specifically mentioned. I was also a little surprised yesterday when the Taoiseach said in answer to Deputy Mick Wallace that he did not do the fudge, "There is nothing to see. Do not worry about it." He actually came out and argued in favour of an EU army in preference to the US army. I certainly do not want to see an EU army. I do not want Irish forces to be involved in one and do not believe most Irish people do either.

There is no doubt - Deputies have made this point - that EU member states will commit to increased military spending. PESCO has absolutely been driven by the arms industry. While that should not surprise us, we still have the official line that it does not specifically commit us to sticking to NATO's bottom line of moving towards a figure of 2% of GDP for defence budgets by 2020. However, by committing to closer co-operation, a commitment that will be monitored, we are, in fact, committing to increased defence spending. Some have estimated that Ireland is likely to be handing over more than €1.3 billion by 2021, which is a conservative estimate. It is galling for Defence Forces personnel who are living on a shoestring that we will be able to put our hands on that money when we cannot even offer them decent pay and conditions. It is an outrage.

It is the case that the Government is bouncing us into this arrangement by doing it so quickly, without any proper public debate. In The Sunday Times in 2016 Conor Brady sketched it rather well when he said, in talking about closer EU defence co-operation, that our politicians, as well as the military top brass, senior civil servants and diplomats, agreed with it but that it would be political suicide for any of them to make a full assault on Irish neutrality.

He concluded:

A policy of low-level, pragmatic collaboration with our EU partners in the building of defence capability is probably the best option. We could still argue that we are not, strictly speaking, part of the EU defence arrangements. It would be hypocritical, but we have no great reputation for straight-talking anyway.

That was prophetic and summed up exactly the approach being taken by this Government of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, ably backed up by their Independent Alliance colleagues.

For the Government to perform an end run around not just the national Parliament, but also the public, whose money will be shovelled into this abomination, whose bodies will be the fodder in the cannons of an EU army and who are Deputies' ultimate bosses, is unprecedented. When I first raised this matter at the Business Committee in November after it was mentioned at the European Council, we were assured that full democratic procedures would be followed, but that is not what has happened. Despite the fact that other Deputies have tabled Topical Issue matters and so on to try to raise the issue, there was no mention of it when we attended the Business Committee last week. Neither was there any mention of it being discussed this week or next week until it was shoehorned into the agenda earlier this week. That is unprecedented.

Without doubt, this will be viewed in time as one of the most treacherous decisions that the House has ever taken. Why are we doing it? A scenario has been created wherein by taking this course of action we are saving and protecting ourselves from the terrorists and marauding hordes that are suddenly on our border. Deputy Lisa Chambers tells us that we need to engage in surveillance, but surveillance of whom? Whose world is this making safer? The past decade has been the most militarised in history, yet there are more wars in more places now than ever before. If people want to make the world safe against terrorism, they should stop interfering in countries and destroying the lives of people who are then driven into terrorism as a so-called solution. To militarise our borders in order to keep out the victims of those crises or put surveillance on them is a disgrace.

If the Government was serious about combating terrorism and protecting the citizens of this State, it would immediately end the use of Shannon Airport by the US military and end the hypocrisy of claiming to be militarily neutral while bending the knee to the US establishment, the EU, which is our friend in terms of Brexit, and to their bosses, the arms industry, which is driving this situation for its own profit and to the detriment of humanity.

I understand that Deputy Eamon Ryan is sharing time with Deputy Healy.

The Green Party is opposed to Ireland's entry into PESCO. It runs contrary to Ireland's tradition as a neutral non-aligned country and it will not serve our people or armed forces well in the great work that the latter have done representing us in peace missions overseas. We regret that the process by which approval is being sought - at incredibly short notice and without proper debate or committee hearings at which we could have real consultation - casts a shadow on what is being done.

Regardless, we disagree in principle with the approach that is being taken. While we recognise that we need to train and better resource our military and ensure that it has joint operability with the militaries of other countries on peacekeeping missions, our contention, having read the notification on PESCO and the founding documents that have been set out, is that this goes far beyond that. This is about the building up of a military capability and industrial armaments capability, which will not provide security in the long run. From the documents, it is clear that PESCO is primarily focused on the security issue that people perceive in our relationship with bordering areas, particularly with north Africa in the south, the Middle East and so on, where there are increasing tensions and difficulties.

Any assessment of what has been done by European nations and others in recent years would show that the approach that has been taken is not working. In fact, it has increased the level of insecurity and threat rather than decreased it. The example of Libya has been mentioned a number of times. European governments, primarily Britain and France, engaged in a regime change operation, ostensibly to create a more secure state, but left that state in complete anarchy. There has been considerable conflict in Libya as well as conditions of slavery applying to migrant peoples who are locked in that country. There has been a breakdown of order.

The approach of using heavy military equipment - armaments, aircraft and so on - to try to enforce a peace simply does not work. When speaking with a friend who had been working at a high level in Afghanistan for the past ten years and was in regular contact with American generals there, I asked her about their sense of how that approach had gone. She told me that most of those generals would honestly admit that, if given the choice, they would employ 1,000 aid workers before they would ever deploy a military division and that the old method of applying force through the use of large armaments in an attempt to keep the peace did not work. It has not been our way in our successful peacekeeping operations.

The Government regularly says that PESCO is about peacekeeping and increasing our ability to engage in such missions, but the rationale for PESCO as set out in the documents is the opposite. The notification documents read: "The project portfolio shall reflect an appropriate balance between projects which are more in the area of capability development and those who are more in the area of operations and missions". The Minister stated that the 2% target only related to research expenditure, but there is a clear commitment that any government partaking in the process will ensure that its expenditure on what is called "defence investment", which I take to mean the development of an armaments capability, which is involved in a military form of peacekeeping that will not work, will increase to 20% of total expenditure over successive years.

People have claimed that this is not a move towards the further development of NATO, but I will refer Members who may be considering voting in favour of the motion to the speech given by President Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, in his state of the European Union address, where he was again categoric and explicit on the need to develop a European defence union and that this would be in NATO's interests. Time and again, the Secretary General of NATO welcomed the introduction of PESCO. All parties are saying that this is effectively Europe stepping in to replace or complement NATO in order to provide our main security-peacekeeping system. That approach will not work and is not our approach as a country, given our historical position of non-aligned neutrality. That may seem abstract or difficult to measure in terms of what value it brings, but the Irish people know it and treasure it, and when they find out after the fact that we have taken this strategic decision, they will say that it is not the way that we should have gone.

While we need to build up the Defence Forces and ensure that our soldiers, sailors and air personnel are better paid and have the right equipment, none of that means that we have to make this commitment. Denmark is an example of a similar country that has gone in a different direction. No Deputy has said that Denmark is terrible or failing to live up to its European commitments. It maintains its strength by having a certain independence.

The European Union would be stronger by having a certain level of diversity in terms of its approach to security and defence issues, in particular.

Europe has a history which we cannot ignore or avoid. It has been one of military adventurism, in particular in North Africa, the Middle East and border areas. What guarantees do we have that the tradition we are committing to, in terms of the ramping up of expenditure on armament and capabilities, will not be one which dominates in this new mechanism? I am very much a supporter of the European Union and I am glad we are a member state. I believe this is a time where we have to have multilateral co-operation and be a leading player in moving the Union forward. However, I do not want to see that happening in the area of defence spending and militarisation. What Europe brings to the world is a more diplomatic and political, less offensive, process. Ireland, as an independent, neutral and non-aligned country, could be a voice on the edge of Europe calling out on a regular basis to say, "Not in this way".

I am constrained by time, given that I am sharing time with Deputy Healy. We are rushing this through and it appears that Fianna Fáil will agree to the motion. I would like the Government to commit to full transparency on all expenditure, decisions and information on which projects Ireland will become involved in and that the Dáil is informed on a regular basis about what is happening. The process should not be hidden and decisions made in corridors in Brussels which we know nothing about. It would be a tragedy and mistake for us to sign up to this today, but let us at least make sure that the Dáil has full transparency and accountability in regard to what is unfortunately happening in our name.

I too oppose this proposal. It is very clear that there is an attempt to bulldoze this through the Oireachtas and bounce us into PESCO, which is effectively a militarised Europe. This issue was initially raised on 14 November. It was cleared by the Cabinet on 21 November. However, it was never raised at the Business Committee which sets the agenda for the House, usually two weeks in advance. There was no indication of the matter on the agenda of the Business Committee either on a current week basis or for the following week. On Monday last, we found that we would have two hours to debate this proposal. It is clearly an attempt to bounce us into what is effectively a European army.

There should be proper discussion in the House. It should have been referred to the defence committee where a proper discussion, rather than a tick box exercise as we had yesterday, could take place. The committee would have an opportunity to bring all interested parties before it and hear all of their views. It could have sought public submissions and heard from interest groups like the Army, the Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance, PANA, Afri and other organisations and individuals that have an interest in this area.

This is an issue not just for the Oireachtas but also the public. There has been no public debate on or scrutiny of this issue. There has been an attempt to bring this in under the wire and get it through the House quickly. The Government has an opportunity to withdraw the proposal and send it to the Citizens' Assembly, which could discuss it properly. The public could have an opportunity to discuss and scrutinise the proposal.

We have heard there is a deadline. It is very clear from the response of the Minister of State on this issue that there is no deadline and that the so-called deadline has more to do with Brexit and the support of the EU for the Irish position. I again call on the Government to withdraw this proposal and allow time for the Oireachtas and the public more generally, including the Citizens' Assembly, to deal with this issue.

It is quite clear from all the documentation that, far from what Deputy Chambers said, PESCO is a binding enhanced defence pact. It is not voluntary or temporary. It is a permanent arrangement and a huge step towards a militarised European Union and European army. We know where that has brought us. There has been chaos in Libya following the interventions of various governments. There are three different governments and vast areas of the country have no government at all. There are various detention centres, some of which are under the control of one or other of the three different governments, while others are under the control of individual militias. The conditions are horrendous and people are being abused, sold as slaves etc.

Those fleeing Libya are being intercepted by EU boats, which unfortunately include Irish ships, and handed back to the Italian Navy which then sends them to one of the pro-European government centres in Libya. They return to horrendous conditions. Millions of people left our shores during the Famine years and afterwards. They found safety and security across the world. Surely people fleeing Libya are entitled to the same.

We are definitely moving towards a common defence pact. As other speakers have said, there is no doubt that is a breach Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Has the Government received legal advice from the Attorney General on the issue?

The costs involved are another very serious issue for the public. On an annual basis, they will total approximately €1.5 billion, which is five times what we already spend. That is money which could easily go to other areas. The main part of that expenditure will benefit the arms industry. We have already purchased a number of ships at a cost of €75 million each. We have a tender for a ship costing €250 million. The arms industry will benefit from that type of expenditure. Money should instead go towards dealing with the various emergencies in our country, such as housing. Some 8,500 people are homeless and 3,500 children will wake up on Christmas morning in hotel bedrooms and bed breakfast accommodation.

I call on the Ministers of State, Deputies Finian McGrath and John Halligan, to make their position on this known. They have a record of opposing the militarisation of the EU and a European army. It is incumbent on them to make their position clear before the vote takes place. I am shocked by the intervention and support of Fianna Fáil for this proposal. Eamon de Valera would turn in his grave.

I, too, am delighted to be able to speak on the motion. When I was young we fed the hens presto. When I heard PESCO discussed at the Business Committee I thought the reference was to presto. PESCO is Permanent Structured Cooperation.

Nothing is simple or laissez-faire about this. It is a permanent process. The Government is pulling a fast one. The Ceann Comhairle chairs the Business Committee and I respect the great job he does both there and in the House. I wish him a happy Christmas.

There were three Business Committee meetings about this. As has been stated by many others, there was no mention of it until recently. It was approved by the Cabinet on 15 November. The Rural Independent Group will bring a motion before the House next Tuesday night at 9 p.m. and we have to give at least two if not three weeks' notice of our intentions or what we will debate. That is only right. The Government, on the other hand, can come here to pull this out of a lucky bag when it is nearly Christmas week. It tells us it will be grand and hopes we will be distracted with everything on Grafton Street and a feeling of being jolly and merry so we will approve the motion. It is underhanded, deceitful and disrespectful to the House, its Members and all the people. It is the first time since the formation of the Business Committee in this Dáil that a majority opposed Government business. We have been co-operative and we work together to try to organise business and get legislation passed. Often, we do our best in a hurry. I am a member of the Business Committee and this has been bulldozed through.

We thought we might have the start of an election campaign last week so what would have happened then? There would have been no PESCO or pesto or anything else; we would have been knocking on doors looking for pesto or some bit of sustenance from households to keep us going. Perhaps a bowl of porridge or hot soup, for example. Where would it have been then? If it is so important to approve this before the December deadline, what would have happened if the House was imithe? We would not be discussing it at all. Much pressure is being applied, along with underhanded work I do not like.

I fully support our Army and its proud record over decades. We had a very fine barracks in Clonmel but the Government took that away from us too. We kept Cromwell out of Clonmel but we could not keep out big Phil and the Fine Gael gang. They destroyed the place by taking the corporation and the barracks out of it. They took mental health facilities out of it. Defence Forces personnel are now dispersed over the country with no travelling expenses. Last week we had a debate watched by the wives and partners, fathers and mothers, uncles, aunts, sons and nephews of Defence Forces personnel. They are proud people and are being reduced to penury. They are in receipt of family income supplement, not able to put food on the table for their kids. We saw an exposé on RTÉ about this. It would be better for the Government to support the Army we have and treat it with respect.

We go on television praising the work done by the Army and Irish Navy on humanitarian missions in the Middle East and other areas. It is very important we recognise it but we cannot have it on the cheap or a shoestring. We must support the personnel and give them proper training, equipment and, above all, a decent wage so they can raise their family with some modicum of dignity and ease rather than scrounging from one week to the next. I do not see many television programmes but I saw this one and it was harrowing to see wives trying to manage until the next paycheque and get support from families. We need to put our money where our mouth is and support the Army rather than have it linked to something like this.

We do not know the parameters of this PESCO process. I do not like it anyway. Deputy Lisa Chambers has gone but as I said last week, she might as well be sitting where the Minister of State is because she was more passionate about this than he was. She told us about it last week and today. She can spare me the lecture as I do not need a lecture from Deputy Chambers or anybody else, saying we are anti-this or anti-that and we do not support our Army. We do, of course, and we want it to be supported, respected and paid. We do not wish to be led, blindfolded, into a position in which we should not be. We have the name of a neutral country and I want to keep it.

I am also questioning the use of Shannon Airport, certainly when it comes to soldiers passing through. We are told the American soldiers going to Afghanistan and the Middle East are unarmed when they go through Shannon Airport but there are other shipments. If the Minister - the Taoiseach, in this case - was here he could tell us how many aircraft with armaments have passed through our State. I was in the right place at the right time and saw letters that needed to be signed to agree passage of a number of planes with deadly munitions that create havoc. There is no accountability to the House for that either.

This started back with the Lisbon treaty. I will put my hand up and say that like an eejit, I was a member of the great party that voted for the treaty. I campaigned the first time but not the second time. We saw the trouble that British people have with Brexit. They did not reject the view of the people and they are trying to deal with it. We are dealing with those consequences. We went back and fooled the people. It was a question of kid me twice and catch the people a second time. That is what happened. We had a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty, which was the genesis of this process of undermining our neutrality. It took control from our people and sovereign Parliament. It is a while ago and I suppose we should have seen alarm bells ringing then. I was not a Deputy then but I was cannon fodder in a political party when one shuts up and does what one is told. The task was to admire the great leader and accept the whip. I am thankful I have been unshackled and I have the best freedom of my life. I can speak as and when I wish on whatever topics I choose. Most important, I can vote as I wish rather than getting an instruction from the Whip, with a call to the office if I vote the wrong way or miss a vote. It is a great feeling of energy, enthusiasm and vibrancy, if anybody is thinking of it. I can do as I like. I serve one master, which is me, as well as the public.

We would love to have the Deputy back.

Does the Deputy not serve the people of Tipperary?

I do and I do my best all the time.

The Deputy has many masters then.

I have no masters, only the man above, thank God. I speak with him every day and he supports and sustains me, thank God. I have no masters in the political hierarchy telling me to do this or that.

Mention has been made of the Ministers of State, Deputies Halligan and Finian McGrath. They are like spinning tops now because they have spun so much from the policies they stood for when I knew them. When the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, was on this side of the House he was very angry about these matters. I remember being at the American ambassador's residence for lunch one day when we were not long here and he spoke about Nicaragua and the other places where the Americans should not have been. It is amazing how one loses one's conscience when one joins the ranks of the Ministers of State. It is lost completely or sold, one or the other. That is what happened.

This matter is unpalatable. There are no guidelines and the costs, which have been mentioned, are put at up to €1.5 billion per year. The money could be spent well in upgrading our barracks and equipment, as well as soldiers' pay. When we have a flood, snow or any kind of emergency, they are the first line of defence. They are the first line of defence to support An Garda Síochána when there is trouble as well. We could do it much better. The Government has been caught with its pants down on this as it did not expect resistance at the Business Committee and here in the Dáil. With its allies in Fianna Fáil-----

I do not know what one might call them. We were pretty jumpy two weeks ago and we thought the water pipe had burst and was severed forever but the supply has been mended for the moment. The frost is coming and it could freeze the water and the pipe could easily shatter. We could be out knocking on doors in the few weeks after Christmas but the Government would be happy enough to have signed up to PESCO.

We will be the good boys of Europe again. Where were our friends in Europe when we wanted them during the so-called bailout? They allowed European banks to shovel billions of euro into the country. It was secured but the insurance was never drawn down. The Irish people had to take the rap. They then gave us a bailout, which I called a clean-out. They charged us nearly 6% interest on the money when we got it from the International Monetary Fund for less than 3%. We are still repaying that debt but money can be borrowed now on the world markets for less than 1%. Where are our friends in that respect? We needed those friends but they were nowhere.

We got lectures, as did the British people after Brexit. These people forget that we are meant to be autonomous states and we will do as we wish. We respect the wishes of our electorate. The noise and soundings from President Donald Tusk and others since Brexit have led us to our current impasse. They should be a bit more conciliatory and respectful of the fact that we have our independence, which was hard-fought, and we want to maintain it. It is not about linking to rag-tag coalitions with deadly intentions and that carry out acts of war.

Deputy Chambers and others spoke about surveillance.

I, too, have concerns about some of the people coming into the country, but we cannot close our borders to those who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances. I have visited Lebanon and met the refugees there. I saw plenty of old women and young children but no men because they had either been slaughtered, were in hiding or had gone off to join ISIS or some other group. We cannot reject the people in question in their time of need. During the Great Famine Irish people arriving on famine ships were received in the United States, Britain and elsewhere. We must have a more in-depth and thorough examination of what is causing the crises in these strife-ridden areas. Much of it is a consequence of actions taken by the armaments industries in large countries. The Americans and others who went into Syria in an attempt to get rid of President al-Assad and establish a new regime are the same people who supplied the guys on the other side with guns and equipment. It is a daylight con job, with desperate implications for the people of Syria.

We must show humanity, respect and compassion. Above all, we must maintain our neutrality. A previous speaker referred to Eamon de Valera who surely must be spinning in his grave. We all know the approach he took in the Second World War. Now, however, we are, apparently, happy to sign up to everything that is put in front of us. When we are told to jump, we ask, "How high?" and sign the papers, for which we receive a pat on the back and perhaps a meal and a celebration. The Irish are the good boys of Europe, but where are our thanks for it? I will not say the word I would like to use to describe the thanks we get, but it starts with an "S".

We are proposing to put our soldiers into unknown territories, possibly without proper equipment. Soldiers who participated in a previous United Nations mission were rightly honoured in Galway last week. It took 60 years to have their contribution recognised. We are now facing a situation where Irish soldiers will be sent into conflict zones without proper training and knowledge and without adequate support for their families at home. I am all for ensuring the Army, the FCA and the Reserve Defence Force are properly equipped, trained and clothed and given adequate remuneration for their service to the country and the United Nations. The Defence Forces enjoy worldwide respect for the service they have given in many locations. However, the more we get sucked into these quangos or outfits, the less respect there will be for our forces and neutral position.

We must go back to the drawing board on this proposal. The Taoiseach is not in the Chamber, but I ask him to withdraw the motion before it is put to a vote. I appeal to the erstwhile colleague sitting to my right, Deputy Seán Haughey, that his party reconsider its position, having regard to its roots and the struggles of its founder.

We also remember Seán Lemass who had an entirely different attitude from that of Eamon de Valera.

Yes, but it was Éamon de Valera who founded the party.

Things change and evolve.

Indeed they do. I ask my Fianna Fáil colleagues to scratch their heads and think more deeply about what they are signing up to in supporting the motion. They should be more than just a mudguard for the Fine Gael-led Government. Mudguards collect dirt and often fall off, are driven over and wrecked. We must have proper consultation and a proper debate on this proposal. A previous speaker referred to the Citizens' Assembly, but we have had enough of that for now. This House is the real citizens' assembly and we must have a proper debate here and at the committee. Instead of presenting us with a simplistic fact sheet, the Government must allow us to debate the real facts. Deputy Lisa Chambers advised us to inform ourselves better on these matters. I do not know how we managed before she came into the House. She wants to lecture us and set the bar for the lesser people, but I will not take lessons from her on this issue. I look forward to having a proper debate on it.

I commend the motion to approve Ireland's participation in the European Union's permanent structured cooperation framework, PESCO. I missed the beginning of the debate because I was at a committee, but I could make a fair stab at guessing some of the points raised and the scaremongering which I expect has come from the Opposition benches. It is important to set out the facts clearly when considering the motion. PESCO will ultimately enhance the capability of UN-mandated missions engaged in peacekeeping and conflict prevention and the strengthening of our international security. When one considers the fantastic reputation of Ireland's Defence Forces internationally and the amazing peacekeeping work they do, approving this proposal makes perfect sense.

We must bear in mind the many threats we face at this time. We have a tendency to feel secure in neutral Ireland, but the reality is that there are threats all over the world that could manifestly impact on us. Most of these risks cannot be faced down by a single country acting alone, particularly not a country of this size. If we take, for example, the threat of cyberterrorsim, there has been a huge increase in cyberhacking and a sense that a great deal of it is coming from Russia and a number of other countries. Computers fly aeroplanes, run transport systems and operate banks and hospitals. An attack on these computer systems could see all of our services grinding to a halt. When we see cyberhacking activities linked with the countries I mentioned, it is clear that we need a positive and proactive plan to address them. I want to see the European Union of which this country is part taking a co-ordinated approach to this issue and Ireland at the heart of it. One of the projects we will consider participating in if we do join PESCO involves tackling cyberthreats and devising an incident response information-sharing platform. It makes perfect sense for us to engage actively with our EU partners in this important area.

Joining PESCO will be good for the Defence Forces. The Tánaiste was very clear earlier that there was absolutely no obligation under PESCO to increase our defence expenditure to 2% of GDP. Having said that, I want to see increased investment in the Defence Forces in the future, not just in equipment and infrastructure but also in personnel. Members saw a significant reduction in their allowances late in the past decade. If we are to continue to attract and retain the best people, we must move to reinstate these allowances.

Another project in which we might consider participating, under the PESCO framework, involves the establishment of a centre of excellence for EU military training missions. In fact, not only should we look to participate in that initiative, we should also seek to host the training. The 2015 White Paper on Defence outlined an ambitious plan to develop a peace and leadership institute in the Curragh Camp, which would help to build our international reputation as a world leader in peacekeeping and conflict resolution. I hope our joining PESCO will lead to the advancement of that proposal. It would involve the development of a state-of-the-art institute of international standing to which non-governmental organisations and politicians from all over the world could come to study peace enforcement and conflict resolution strategies. That type of investment would not only enhance our international reputation but also create significant employment in south Kildare and attract substantial investment into the area.

A previous speaker on the other side of the House expressed the view that the PESCO initiative was being driven by the armaments industry. I was at a meeting in Brussels last Monday of the chairs of national European People's Party parties, at which concern was expressed that the main opposition to PESCO would come from the arms industry because, in fact, the agreement did not suit it at all. After all, one of the objectives is to encourage the sharing of equipment by member states. Countries in Europe which currently spend a great deal of money on defence are doing so individually, without talking to others. The sharing of equipment would see lower purchase volumes and a more strategic and smarter approach to purchases made. To clarify, the view among member states is that one of the main threats to PESCO will come in the form of an attempt by the arms industry to undermine it by way of some of the scaremongering arguments we have heard from Opposition Members.

I have more to say, but I am almost out of time. Participation in PESCO will fully respect the constitutional provisions of all member states.

It does not affect our military neutrality in any way. The triple lock still holds such that if Ireland is to engage in any peacekeeping activity it must have a United Nations Security Council resolution or mandate, a Government decision and Dáil approval. There is nothing to fear from PESCO. It provides a good opportunity for our Defence Forces and I commend the motion to the House.

The EU has been the biggest peace process attempted in recent history. It has ensured peace, stability and progress in Europe since the Second World War. We need to put this debate in context and consider our overall commitment to the European Union. Brexit is the biggest issue facing this country. There is to be a major summit of the European Council next week. We need to recognise the firm support of the heads of the other EU states for Ireland's position. We hope there will be a successful outcome from the Irish point of view from that meeting.

A debate is under way on the future of Europe. The Commission has put forward five options and President Macron of France has made a speech and Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission President, gave a state of the union address. Some say there is a lack of debate but there is a public consultation process about the future of the European Union and everybody needs to get involved in that. We need to state that Ireland remains a fully committed member of the EU and wants to be central to the debate on the future of the EU.

Non-governmental organisations have put forward a sixth option which emphasises environmental and social issues. Ireland should give serious consideration to that. The UK leaving the EU has brought the Franco-German access to the fore again. President Macron has outlined his vision for the future of Europe. He called for a more sovereign, unified and democratic EU and for the re-foundation of Europe. He called for several other measures too. As a small nation state we do not agree with all of those but we should have the confidence to play our part in this debate in the interests of our common future.

I am a firm believer in Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality which is not just the avoidance of military alliances but the promotion of peace, justice and basic human rights. We are respected for that. Our UN mandate with regard to peacekeeping and peace enforcement is very well respected. We were not colonisers. The developing countries in particular recognise our position which allows us to punch above our weight in global affairs.

Reference has been made to Eamon de Valera turning in his grave at the position of the Fianna Fáil Party on this motion but things change and evolve. I wonder what view Seán Lemass would have taken of this issue. He was a pragmatic patriot and I think he is on the record as saying we need to move in this area from the European perspective. That should be recognised too.

PESCO was provided for in the Lisbon treaty of 2009 which Ireland ratified. New issues have emerged such as human trafficking, terrorism and cybercrime. We need to co-operate with fellow EU states on these issues. PESCO projects will include peacekeeping operations under the EU flag. All projects are voluntary. Ireland can opt in or opt out. We can take a pragmatic approach to PESCO. It will operate on the basis that the specific character of the security and defence policy of all our member states is taken into account. It is also interesting to note that three other EU neutral states have signed up to PESCO, Sweden, Austria and Finland. Many years ago at Trinity College I did a thesis on Irish neutrality. Many of these neutral countries believe in an armed neutrality. They support their neutrality by expenditure on defence and believe in the necessity of armed neutrality.

There is concern about the increase in military spending but this was provided for in the defence White Paper. We need to increase pay and replace equipment in our Defence Forces and PESCO will give us an opportunity to do much of that.

PESCO is the beginning of the creation of a standing EU army. At the press conference after PESCO was agreed Federica Mogherini said:

[W]e are building the European Union of Security and Defence. It is not a plan anymore, it is not a dream anymore, it is reality coming true.

It is disgraceful that this Government and its partners in Fianna Fáil have once again tried to sneak a motion through this House quickly and quietly in order to undermine Ireland's neutrality. It is obvious why it is doing this. Neutrality is popular in Ireland. It wants to undermine and destroy it but will not do so in the open because people would not stand for it. It is shameful that the Independent Alliance Deputies, who for years in opposition spoke passionately in favour of Irish neutrality and repeatedly supported Sinn Féin's attempts to have a referendum to enshrine neutrality in Bunreacht na hÉireann, now do not have the courage to stand in favour of neutrality and vote against this at Cabinet or in the Dáil. They want to lock us into an EU defence union which will involve massively increased arms spending and overseas interventions and package it as some benign agreement. Yesterday, we spoke here about neurological services and the problems facing that sector and our health service yet today we are talking about spending money on foreign intervention and an EU army. It looks ridiculous to the public outside here.

Sinn Féin has repeatedly spoken out against the further militarisation of the EU and the creation of this EU army. We opposed it at every step. We were repeatedly labelled as scaremongers and fantasists. During the Lisbon treaty campaign Sinn Féin and others on the "No" side pointed out that accepting the treaty would lead to the creation of an EU army. One of the major reasons that the Irish people rejected the Lisbon treaty the first time was concern for Irish neutrality. We were then told we misled the public and Fianna Fáil, with Fine Gael and the Labour Party's support, ran the referendum again but this time with a supposed promise from the EU that Ireland's neutrality would be respected. We were also repeatedly told an EU army would not be created, that it was a fallacy and would not happen. Once again, Sinn Féin has been proved right in its criticism of the EU and the establishment parties' desire to join an EU army are being laid bare for all to see.

During the short debate yesterday the Taoiseach said this is not a new issue, it is the Lisbon treaty. This is part of a long line of actions by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party to dismantle Irish neutrality. In 1997, the Fianna Fáil-led Government signed Ireland up to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO's, Partnership for Peace despite promises to the contrary, and a pre-election promise that it would call a referendum on this issue. Who heads NATO? Who drives it? The Americans. Donald Trump. Where are we going with all this?

The same parties, when in power between 2002 and 2004, involved this State in supporting an illegal invasion of Iraq based on concocted evidence. In 2003 alone, they allowed more than 3,500 military aircraft to overfly Irish airspace and well over 125,000 US troops to use Shannon Airport as a pit-stop on their way to wage war through invasion and occupation of other parts of the world. They repeatedly denied this was so and refused to put any decision before the Dáil until it was too late. Between 2002 and 2011 it is estimated that over 2.2 million US troops passed through Shannon Airport.

If the Dáil votes in favour of PESCO here today this will not be over because the people will have to have their say at some stage. Sinn Féin will campaign in the next election on the promise of holding a referendum on enshrining neutrality in Bunreacht na hÉireann, removing Ireland from PESCO and the NATO Partnership for Peace.

I often look at clips on television and see troops passing through Shannon Airport. President Trump's troops are passing through Ireland, yet the vast majority of Irish people stand in opposition to everything he represents and everything those soldiers do. It is evident to anyone with an ounce of common sense that this is wrong and moving in the wrong direction. I suggest the Government needs to rethink as the vast majority of people are in a different space. It is regrettable that Fianna Fáil is also in the same place as the Government. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, we all want a peaceful, democratic society. We are all talking about the threats from abroad, including the threat of terrorism. Our actions and what we are allowing to happen at Shannon Airport represent the biggest threat to our peace. If we join PESCO, it will increase our vulnerability.

The President of the European Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, said on 10 November 2016, "We have to do this ourselves, which is why we need a new approach to building a European security union with the end goal of establishing a European army." That is his stated aim. He is in favour of having a European army. PESCO represents a major step towards achieving that goal and, scandalously, the Government has tried and is still trying under the cover of darkness to have Ireland participate in such a European army, making even more of a mockery of our supposed neutrality, considering the use of Shannon Airport. The Government came back to state there was nothing to worry about, that it was about cyber security, that the arms industry would not want this arrangement, that it was not about having a European army and that there was no requirement to spend more money. The Government and the public should read in black and white the Notification on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to the Council and to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy which will include Ireland if the motion is passed. It states, "PESCO is an ambitious, binding and inclusive European legal framework for investments in the security and defence of the EU’s territory and its citizens". It continues, "A long term vision of PESCO could be to arrive at a coherent full spectrum force package". "Full-spectrum force package" means that it includes land, air and naval forces. It continues:

Based on the collective benchmarks identified in 2007, participating Member States subscribe to the following commitments:

1. Regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms, in order to reach agreed objectives.

There it is in black and white, but the Government refuses to answer. It is not even as vague as it appears with the words "agreed objectives". In reality, the agreed objective and goal will involve the expenditure of 2% of GDP as outlined in NATO and as was outlined in a resolution of the European Parliament on PESCO. That will mean a massive expansion in so-called Irish defence spending. It will mean increasing it from approximately €900 million to €3.6 billion. That is what the Government is signing the country up to when it could do other things with that public money. It could instead build 24,000 houses to resolve the housing crisis, employ 116,000 child care workers, cover the expenditure necessary to begin to implement a national health service, provide for free education, repeal the FEMPI legislatin and provide for pay equality, etc. These are the choices the Government is choosing to make.

The point Deputy Martin Heydon made that the European defence industry did not want this arrangement because it goes against its interests is utter nonsense. The reality is that more money will be spent, which is what the defence industry wants. It will end up with the pedlars of death that have been lobbying extensively and doubled the amount spent on lobbying. The top ten companies in the arms industry increased spending from €2.8 million to €5.6 million in the last year. They have had 36 meetings with the European Commission in the past four years and the end result is that PESCO, together with the European defence fund, will be worth €5 billion a year.

In carrying out research for this debate I went to organisations such as Shannonwatch which plays an important role in monitoring the use of Shannon Airport by the US military. I also went to the Irish Anti-War Movement. People should check this on their phones and computers. If one tries to access either website inside Leinster House, one will be blocked on the grounds that they are advocacy organisations. One can log onto the websites of NATO, the US Government and the European Movement, but one cannot visit the websites of the Irish Anti-War Movement and Shannonwatch, which is bizarre. It is clear that there is tension within the European Union between different member states and that there is a drive among some to have greater independence from NATO in the context of the crisis caused by President Trump and the move towards having a European army. We should draw on the words of James Connolly and the statement, "We serve neither King nor Kaiser," and say "neither NATO nor a militarised European Union". Instead, we should have a socialist Ireland and a socialist Europe built on a policy of peace, solidarity and democracy.

I proudly campaigned against the Lisbon treaty and the second Lisbon treaty, primarily on two grounds, one of which was the militarisation of Europe, while the second was the opening of markets on a neoliberal basis. I was demonised at the time, as was a small group of others, but we stood together. The President who was a Deputy at the time actively promoted the Lisbon treaty. In that context, I welcome the speech made today by the Labour Party Deputy on his approach to this issue. I mention this because the Taoiseach told us, in one of the documents I have before me, that this had all been decided in the Lisbon treaty and that we had had plenty of time since to discuss it. Perhaps the Minister of State might comment on this. The Taoiseach has told us that this was done and dusted in the Lisbon treaty in 2009. That is an extremely worrying statement.

Various people have been quoted, including Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker who clearly indicated a will and a desire to push for a European army, yet at the same time the Lisbon treaty, in article 10(3), that "Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen". The Minister of State might reflect on that article and tell us how the Government has complied with it in the PESCO arrangement that is being rushed through the Dáil, regrettably with the support of Fianna Fáil. What document has been given to us outlining what the Government is signing up to, what it is opting into and what it is opting out of? I relied on my own research and organisations on the ground which I thank for all of their work which is done on a voluntary basis.

I have looked at the notification on the permanent structured cooperation, PESCO, arrangement. Has the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne, or Deputy Alan Farrell read any of it? I have read it and it does not make for pleasant reading. It is ten pages long and some of it has been quoted. I will quote some more from it. It reads: "Based on the collective benchmarks identified in 2007..." I do not have time to read the rest of it as I only have two minutes left. It also states, "Aiming for fast-tracked political commitment at national level, including possibly reviewing their national decision-making procedures". It refers to increasing the share of expenditure on defence, which is spelled out in black and white.

Did the Government read the document? Is that what we are signing up to or are we opting into what is outlined on page 2 and opting out of what is stated on page 3? What are we doing? I would have thought my ex-colleague in Fianna Fáil would have at least raised questions about the process. What are we signing up to? Who has seen the document and when will we see it? Will we see it after the decision is made next week? We have not been told why there is such a rush to make the decision. Why does it have to be made this week? Cén fáth é sin? An bhfuil a fhios ag an gCathaoirleach? An bhfuil a fhios ag éinne sa Dáil? Why does it have to be made by next week without any information being placed before us? We have had a contemptuous level of argument from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade this morning who referred to hysterical and exaggerated responses and said we should go and educate ourselves and that we had had plenty of time to do so.

Really? This instrument, which the Government will sign next week, will have the most serious implication and this in a country where nine people have been found dead on our streets since August. There is no hesitation in committing millions - the figures have been quoted and it is like Monopoly money - to increase our spending to encourage an industrial military complex and the arms industry, and all in the guise of peace enforcement. The Government has turned language on its head. I think it has forgotten the difference between right and wrong. It has utterly forgotten the difference between the truth and a lie. It insults the people of Ireland who have in various polls repeatedly told us that they hold the concept of neutrality dearly and do not want it abandoned. If it is to be abandoned, let us do it in a truthful way with knowledge to everyone. How dare the Government treat the people of Ireland like this?

As respectfully as I can, I will debunk some of the remarks made about the statements of Jean Claude Juncker on the establishment of a European army. I do not need to remind the Members, as they have already made statements to this effect, that we are a neutral country, are not aligned and make decisions based on the triple lock which involves this House, the UN and the Cabinet. Therefore, there is no question as to our participation in any of it. Members of the European Union of other states can have all of the aspirations they wish but the bottom line is that this country has the triple lock. We are neutral and will not be engaging in any such provisions, whether they come into fruition or not. The point about PESCO is that we have options. We can choose to opt into certain elements of the provisions contained within it. The underlying factor and the most important part is that we can share resources with other nations that are taking part in UN mandated missions.

I was a member of the defence committee in the previous Dáil. Unlike the Ceann Comhairle, I do not have any barracks in my constituency but they are pretty close by. I am very proud of the work the men and women of our Defence Forces do, particularly in UN mandated missions. They have saved hundreds of thousands of lives of men, women and children. For a very small country off the coast of Europe, we have had an enormous impact for decades and we will continue to have an enormous impact into the future in our participation in peacekeeping missions across the world. As I said, and I want to reiterate it, I am very proud of the men and women of our Defence Forces who put their lives on the line for others to bring forward our concept of democracy and our concept of the defence of the defenceless. I think that is extremely important.

I want to briefly reference the Lisbon Treaty and the fact that it was passed in 2009, when 60% of the electorate voted and 67% of those voted it through. The previous year, only 53% showed up and there was a marginal "No" vote of 53% to 46%. The reason I raise the point is that it was an horrifically run campaign and there was a chronic lack of information. The scaremongering during the campaign was quite extraordinary. I am pleased to say that sense prevailed in terms of the provisions in and protocols to the Lisbon Treaty and the provisions within our Constitution. These are guaranteed. It is not a matter for an outside institution or body to determine what we as a State do. We make those decisions for ourselves.

The element of PESCO that I want to dwell upon is the fact that we, as a State, and our Defence Forces can learn and share resources with other states in the engagement in UN missions. That is an extremely important facet of PESCO, primarily on the basis that we will save money. As mentioned earlier by my colleague, Deputy Heydon, we do not have to go out and, for instance, do all of the research and studies that will, no doubt, cost millions of euros in terms of shared services and logistics and, most importantly, the cybersecurity threat, which is enormous. We have our own counter-cyberterrorism agency within the Defence Forces but we can and should learn from other nations which have invested millions, if not billions, of euro in the furtherance of that research and defence.

Unfortunately, as a State, we have underinvested chronically in our Defence Forces. It is not just a matter of pay but a matter of conditions and equipment. Deputy McGrath stated that we would be spending an additional €1.5 million per annum. However, if we did not sign up to PESCO and did not participate in exchange of information and knowledge, we would probably have to spend twice or even three times that participating in mandated missions.

In the few seconds I have left, I compliment Deputy Lisa Chambers for her contribution and, in particular, her reference to the need for an ongoing debate in this Chamber on what our Defence Forces do. There is a complete, utter and abject ignorance of the precise nature of what they do. I welcome her suggestion of having a three-monthly review and debate about it in this Chamber. It is an important part of what we do in this House. I, too, like my colleague and the Minister commend the motion to the House.

The Minister came into the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence yesterday and outlined all of the reasons Ireland should join PESCO. Many of us made the point about the haste in which this is happening. I compare and contrast it with when the foreign affairs committee was considering our Irish Aid policy some time ago. There were public consultations, submissions and meetings before One World, One Future was produced. Recently, we were also doing a review of Irish Aid and, again, we welcomed submissions from NGOs and the public. We had meetings and the Minister attended with his officials. To me, that is a full debate. However, this has not happened with PESCO and it should have happened because it is a major shift in our defence policy.

The principle of PESCO is to strengthen Europe's military capabilities through specific collaborative defence projects. Despite what the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, said yesterday about it not threatening our neutrality and legal advice being sought from the Attorney General, this is alarming. We know that Attorneys General have got it wrong in the past. Supposing we accept the view that our neutrality is unaffected because there is no agreement to come to the defence of others, nevertheless PESCO implies a much deeper defence co-operation than has been seen before. This is bringing us into a place which I believe undermines and threatens our neutrality. I also believe it is at odds with our reputation for our humanitarian work and the respect in which we are held on human rights issues and for the role we played in designing the sustainable development goals and ensuring their support from 193 countries. The word "military" does not appear anywhere in those goals and military co-operation is not seen as a way to achieve the sustainable development goals.

As a member of the foreign affairs committee and the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, we meet delegations from countries that are in conflict. They ask us how we achieved peace here. We consistently tell them about the process of the Good Friday Agreement - the sitting down, the listening, the dialogue, the negotiations and the compromise. However, PESCO is about a military solution, which is very much at odds with our traditional role and our involvement on the international stage to date. Why are we jeopardising this? We all value the role and the work of our reputable peacekeeping forces. It seems to be suggested that those of us who are critical of PESCO and oppose it are being somehow dismissive or disrespectful of our troops. That is absolutely not the case. There is a major difference between our peacekeeping forces and similar forces of those countries with military roles in previous years. We have never had a military role which is one of the reasons our forces are held in such high regard.

The Minister tells us that there are no provisions in PESCO for a European army but that is very much at odds with what some European figures say. People have mentioned them already. In 2015, Jean-Claude Juncker named PESCO as the way forward to realise his forceful calls for a European army with a budget of €38.5 billion for the years 2021 to 2027. Yet, four out of five people in this country support neutrality.

The Minister spoke about threats. There are no threats to Ireland. It is an island country. It is neutral and its policies and plans all stress that. There will be a change if we do join PESCO.

We are told Malta has a very small and limited defence capacity and therefore does not intend to participate. Malta is in the Mediterranean; we are on the periphery of Europe. It is illogical that Malta does not have to participate when we have to.

The Taoiseach said this country needs to co-operate with other countries. This is definitely the case. Military co-operation, however, is a totally different matter. There is no doubt but that we need to increase our defence budget. Surely, however, that is to improve pay and conditions for the forces and to purchase equipment.

Some of the proposed projects for PESCO are military operations. We have not been told exactly how this will be organised. What is the timeframe? What are the guidelines? Given that this measure is to go through, how will we decide the operations in which we take part and the ones in which we do not? We do not have that information, which is vital. I presume and hope there will not be a late-night telephone call between people. We saw the disastrous consequences of that in the past. Military operations in other regions, including Central America, South America, Africa and south-east Asia, are destabilising regions. They are not solving anything.

PESCO will ally us with countries that have agendas in respect of countries in Africa, countries that have mineral wealth. Some of the latter are allies of the European countries. We need to continue in our traditional role of peacekeeping and peace-building. It is in carrying out this role that we are respected and influential. One does not fight fire with fire. That is what a military solution is doing.

PESCO is a European army in embryonic form. It is a sign of a deepening alliance. It is a formalised, binding mechanism for the collaboration of independent member state forces. It is an integral part of the defence articles in the Lisbon treaty. Its purpose is to give the European Union, including its member states, the ability and autonomous capabilities for military actions, removing the need for wider NATO support, specifically US support. Dubbed the sleeping beauty of the common foreign and security policy by federalists, PESCO was intended to be introduced when the treaty came into force in 2009. However, the challenges in ratifying the treaty, notably its rejection in Ireland and the associated popular fears about greater EU integration, more of which we heard today from certain quarters in the European Union, ensured that PESCO was shelved as a step too far while other aspects of the common security and defence policy, CSDP, were developed. The revived drive behind PESCO reflects broader militarisation of EU foreign policy, development policy and the Juncker Commission's sustained efforts to increase integration and work towards a European defence union. The relevant articles of the Lisbon treaty, Articles 42 and 46, require member states to make troops available, commit to consistently upgrading military capabilities and meet required capability thresholds, among other things. The nature of missions for which PESCO forces will be utilised is defined in Article 43, which states missions "shall include joint […] operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilisation." It continues: "All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories." This means that PESCO would give the European Union the ability to intervene in conflicts, similar to those in the former state of Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria, outside both NATO and UN structures. While some people may argue the merits of this, we argue, as a neutral country, that we should stick within UN structures and not within military alliances that would essentially mean we were part of an EU army.

PESCO is clearly unconstitutional. In light of recent Dáil debates on similar issues, such as Irish involvement in European Union Naval Force Mediterranean, or Operation Sophia, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will present the humanitarian aspects of PESCO while ignoring the wider issues and overtly militaristic nature of the European Union's CSDP. A shallow analysis like this will likely create a view of PESCO as non-controversial but the role of PESCO within the CSDP is clear. Without PESCO, the CSDP will never reach the level of integration envisaged by the European Union. It presents a fundamental threat to our neutrality as PESCO and EU defence policy in general have, as the CSDP has become more established, become closely aligned with NATO's European pillar. Even the requirement to increase military expenditure under PESCO is in line with the NATO requirement to bring military expenditure to 2% of GDP.

Many people will be concerned, in the first instance, that this could be a threat to our neutrality. Many will be concerned that this is more about integration in the European Union. It is more about an effort by those who want to create a United States of Europe, with its own Parliament, army and common defence plan. While this Government will quite rightly defend this State against attempts to create a consolidated tax base, it does not seem to have the same problem when similar attempts are at play to create a single military alliance and single defence and military structure within the European Union. I suppose this goes to show where the Government's priorities are. It is federalist when it comes to defence but it is not when it comes to corporation tax.

Let us consider the cost. If we have to put more money aside for military expenditure, it will come from public services at a time when there are crises in the health services and in housing provision. There are too many people on low pay and too many who need to be supported through supplementary welfare. There are too many living in poverty. How can any government or state that is neutral and presents itself as neutral sign up to an alliance such as this? It will increase military expenditure, increase contributions, undermine our independence as a sovereign state and undermine our neutrality, which has been a long-standing position of the Irish people. For all these reasons, I am absolutely opposed to this alliance.

I profoundly disagree with the sentiments expressed by the last speaker. In fact, we are not departing from anything. We are merely participating in what we have participated in for many years, much to our credit and the credit of our Defence Forces. It is far from the case that we are departing into the darkness. In fact, what we are required to do on an ongoing basis is to be absolutely certain that our Defence Forces are upgraded in accordance with best practice. The reason is that defence forces may have to relate to and communicate with one another right across Europe, while engaged in peacekeeping or addressing a threat to security.

While Ireland is a neutral nation and will remain so - we are very proud of our neutrality - it still needs to have some access to the best training available and to have our Army, Naval Service and Air Corps involved in the training taking place in the jurisdictions of our neighbours.

One should remember we are now entering a slightly different security situation. With Brexit, a new scene is developing, and we need to be alert to it. I do not live in a constituency with military bases - I did for quite a long time, as the Ceann Comhairle knows - but I am aware that, much to the country's credit, our Defence Forces have deported themselves very well all over the world. They interacted with all armies in a peacekeeping and peace-securing capacity. They paid the ultimate price in many cases for the UN, in various locations.

This is not a new phenomenon. It is something we need to be quite clear about. We need to protect our Defence Forces so they will be best equipped to deal with any situation that may arise. It may arise here or in peacekeeping circumstances but, regardless of where it arises, it is imperative that the Defence Forces be equipped properly. It would be totally and grossly unfair to expect them to take on a role, be it peacekeeping, peace-supporting or peace-enforcing, in any location unless they are as well equipped as everybody else.

The important point is that we should not expect the Defence Forces to be just as good as other defence forces; we expect them to be better. They have always been better. We need to be absolutely certain that the provisions we sanction in this House are produced on the basis of what we know of the past performance of the Defence Forces and what they are likely to be called on to do in the future. If we do so, we will be doing something in support of them, their families and what they need when they engage as part of an international peacekeeping force or in other circumstances, as in Africa, eastern Europe and all over the globe in the past.

It would be wrong for us to in any way downgrade them and to dismiss them as if we were somehow entering into a new era that we or they have never known about before. They have distinguished themselves in those situations in the past. Would anybody expect that the Army would be equipped in the same way today as it was in the 1960s? Would anybody expect us to have an Army that would put up with that? Would anybody expect us to have an Army that could defend itself if we were only to equip it in the same fashion as it was equipped in the 1960s, when it first went abroad, and paid a high price for it? We should have learned a lesson then. I think we did learn a lesson.

Without a shadow of a doubt we are neutral but we are still part of an international community. I hate to have to mention it but many countries were neutral at the time of the Second World War and their neutrality was not always respected. There is a need for us to have our own well-equipped Defence Forces capable of undertaking whatever is required in a situation of neutrality but at the same time, given the history of the Defence Forces, to be able to engage with and work along with other defence forces involved in similar peacekeeping arrangements.

Like other speakers I am very pleased to be able to make an intervention on this very important issue. Much reference has been made to the haste surrounding the debate but it is important to remember that we lived through this debate and finally the Lisbon treaty came into effect on 1 December 2009. We are living in an ever-changing world with very significant challenges and constantly transforming threats to security. Co-operation with respect to security and defence will, sadly, have to continue to play an increasing role across the European Union.

I was saddened and worried to hear Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan mention that there were no threats to Ireland and that we are a neutral country and an island. It would be wonderful if that were the case but, sadly, that is deeply untrue. We may not know from where exactly the threats are coming but we cannot blindly believe that we somehow are immune to some of the terrible threats and successful actions from the depraved minds of terrorists across the world, including in Europe. National defence policy and spending must reflect the seriousness of the commitments to the tasks to address the challenges ahead.

I listened with particular interest to the contribution of Deputy Lisa Chambers. She is correct that we need to have much more debate in this House about where this country is going in terms of protecting the security of our citizens on this island and in the European Union where tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of them are living. I do not believe that when the debate takes place people within the Parliament will continue to take the view that Ireland should not play its role.

There has been discussion about how much money should be spent on defence. It is a NATO commitment, not a commitment from member states such as Ireland, to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP. That said, I strongly believe that in order to fulfil our United Nations and peacekeeping commitments we should also seek to increase our spending on security and defence.

Much reference in the debate has centred on comments from European politicians such as President Macron. They are entitled to their opinion but we have a Constitution and a Parliament and we can determine our own decisions. Europe has many politicians who from time to time make pronouncements with which we do not agree. We are not subject to those individual opinions because we have our own procedures. Many politicians within the EPP, the European Peoples' Party, the largest political grouping, have also been mentioned. At the congress of the EPP some months ago it was made very clear that PESCO will allow member states which are able and willing to work together within the European framework to improve their common defence and solidarity but it went on to say that this would not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of member states. That is the clear policy of the largest political family in Europe which enshrines in its declaration the independence and nature of Ireland's neutrality.

It is vital that we do not forget for one second what PESCO is seeking to achieve. It is all too easy to be part of the hard left family of parties in Europe who continue not to take the responsibility of trying to achieve what PESCO is seeking to achieve, namely, to have co-operation to save the lives of European people, including Irish people, by working together given that we must accept there is now very significant co-ordination among terrorist organisations to attack us all. We all stood in this House following the attacks in Paris and said it was an attack on Europe and Europeans. We must work together to ensure that we protect ourselves and take our responsibility seriously as a wealthy, modern European country. I strongly support the collaboration between the two largest parties and I hope the others will stop playing party politics as they did with the passenger name recognition measure in the European Parliament, another measure to protect the safety of Europeans, and that we can all work together to ensure there is greater co-ordination to protect the people of Ireland, Irish people in Europe and other Europeans and partner countries such as Tunisia and others who need our support in these difficult times.

I am amazed that the Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, and the Ministers of State, Deputies Finian McGrath and John Halligan, have not been vocal on this motion, first and foremost because of their internationally recognised peacekeeping abilities and, second, because they have been very vocal in this Chamber on such issues previously. I recall listening to all three make very strong and strident arguments in favour of Irish neutrality and against the use, for example, of Shannon Airport as a military base for the United States. It is a great pity they have lost their voice in this time of need when the motion is before the Dáil.

They are out looking for their consciences.

Maybe so. I believe the world has become very unstable. Countries and military blocs are becoming more combative with their interactions and diplomacy is at a low ebb internationally. At the same time we see the EU is tooling up militarily.

Ireland has a proud record of neutrality, which should be cherished, protected and enhanced. We should be able to reaffirm our commitment to a different type of international politics, one that is focused on peace, justice, equality and human rights. My colleagues, Deputies Crowe and Ó Snodaigh, have introduced constitutional amendment Bills in this Chamber previously to ensure Irish neutrality would be further enhanced within the Constitution.

Some might believe the EU has a benign influence on international affairs but it is not without flaw. It is not long ago since we saw EU countries support armed and masked protesters who took over the buildings of the elected government in the Ukraine. We saw what happened there. It set in train the secession of Crimea and the ramping up of east-west tensions. The French have a long history of military activity in north Africa as well.

The purpose of PESCO is to give EU member states the ability and autonomous capabilities for military actions, removing the need for NATO and the support of the US. I believe this is part of a significant acceleration towards federalist demands for broader militarisation of the EU's foreign policy, increased integration and increased European defence.

I would ask the question; have they learned nothing? The more we integrate the EU, the more EU scepticism we create. PESCO is part of that continuum of EU integration. We are long past what is a tolerable level of EU integration. The desire of the EU federalist elite to integrate Europe further is the greatest existential threat to the EU at the moment. These are, in part, the reasons why we see euroscepticism in Britain and elsewhere.

The idea of PESCO is firmly rooted in Articles 42 and 46 of the Lisbon treaty, which require member states to make troops available and to commit to consistently upgrading military capabilities. PESCO would give the EU the ability to participate outside NATO and UN structures in conflicts in certain areas, for example, should conflict arise again in the former Yugoslavia, Libya or Syria.

PESCO is the polar opposite to neutrality. For example, it will force Ireland to bring military spending up to NATO levels of 2%. Deputy Durkan referred to the need to respect our military and the Army and to invest more money. That is for sure. We should pay them a decent wage, for God's sake. Army personnel had to take a 24-hour event outside the Houses of the Oireachtas recently to ensure families could earn enough to live properly in this country. We should absolutely pay them more, but there is no need to go down the route of massive militarisation to achieve that goal.

I have a problem with the fact that politics internationally likes euphemisms too much. People use words such as "peacekeeping" as a fig leaf for military advancement. Indeed, we remember Mr. Bush going to war against Iraq in the first instance in an effort to safeguard world peace. I have no doubt that PESCO will be using the same words in the same way. My colleague, Deputy Cullinane, made an important point earlier. He said there is an opportunity cost in this regard. Every euro the Government spends on upgrading military capabilities in the State is a euro taken out of the pockets of people who are struggling to live, get a house over their heads, access health care and educate their children. There is a stark choice before us. I urge the Oireachtas and the Dáil to choose the citizens of Ireland and their needs over the military elite within Europe.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions on this important issue and welcome the opportunity to once again reaffirm Ireland's strong support for the development of the common security and defence policy and of EU capacity to respond to international crises in support of the United Nations. Ireland will continue to participate in all aspects of CSDP, as we have done since CSDP was established. Indeed, Ireland has been one of the leading contributors to CSDP operations deployed under UN mandates or with the support of the UN.

No one in the Chamber needs reminding of the horrific events of recent times in London, Manchester, Paris, Berlin or further afield in places such as Beirut, the Sinai Peninsula, Mali or Mogadishu. We cannot ignore or consider ourselves immune to the ever-changing, complex and intertwined nature of such threats to individual states and to international peace and security. No country acting alone can address these challenges and Ireland has a responsibility to show flexibility and deliver the support and modernisation needed to respond to this complex and changing environment at home and abroad.

While defence and security in the EU are generally seen as a collective and shared responsibility, it is accepted that each sovereign state has the right to choose its defence policy. In Ireland's case, that is one of military neutrality. However, the adoption of such a policy is not a policy of isolation but the freedom to participate and contribute to international peace and security in accordance with nationally determined values and principles.

A key challenge to the European Union's capacity to mount crisis management operations remains a lack of essential capabilities and the political will from member states to commit the required capabilities for CSDP operations. PESCO has been designed to address this challenge by enhancing the political commitment of member states to develop and deliver capabilities in support of CSDP. In this regard I remain fully satisfied that Ireland's participation in PESCO will contribute to the enhancement of capabilities for United Nations mandated missions engaged in peacekeeping, conflict prevention or the strengthening of international security in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

I have heard the concerns expressed by some Deputies. Several key points are worth repeating in this regard. Participation in any PESCO project is entirely voluntary and it is a matter for each member state to decide whether to participate on a case-by-case basis. PESCO is a further initiative in strengthening the capacity of the Union and member states to support international peace and security. PESCO is also a means of enhancing interoperability and, through working with EU partners, ensuring that our Defence Forces are equipped with the latest and best equipment and training.

The participation criteria for PESCO expressly stipulate that PESCO will be undertaken in full compliance with the Treaty on European Union and the associated protocols and will respect the constitutional provisions of member states. Participation in PESCO is entirely voluntary and has no implications for Ireland's policy of military neutrality, for the triple lock or the crucial roles we play in crisis management and peacekeeping operations.

PESCO was comprehensively discussed in the context of the Lisbon treaty and was approved by the people when they voted on the treaty in October 2009. PESCO was specifically referenced in the Lisbon treaty protocol to address the concerns of the people and Ireland's declaration. Moreover, the legislation setting down Ireland's approval process for PESCO was published in advance of that vote and enacted in November 2009. PESCO has nothing to do with the creation of an EU army. Nothing in the treaties provides for the creation of an EU army. PESCO is about member states making more binding commitments to each other to jointly develop military crisis management capabilities for use in support of CSDP operations.

The world in which we live is a different place now compared to ten or even five years ago. The formal launch of PESCO takes place next Monday, 11 December. It is crucial that Ireland moves forward in tandem with our fellow EU member states and plays its part in helping to address the complex challenges facing the Union and its citizens.

I welcome the debate on Ireland's intention to participate in PESCO. PESCO is a crucial mechanism in which Ireland can participate jointly in projects to develop capabilities that will enhance our contributions to crisis management and peacekeeping operations. The Government is satisfied that the best approach is to move forward with our fellow EU member states in developing essential capabilities. The Government is satisfied that whatever projects we eventually decide to participate in will contribute to the enhancement of the capabilities of Ireland and the EU for United Nations mandated missions. Such missions involve engagement in peacekeeping, conflict prevention or the strengthening of international security in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Everyone in the Chamber is rightly proud of the work undertaken overseas by the Defence Forces in what are increasingly-challenging UN-operated or UN-mandated missions. I am confident that the people want to see the men and women of the Defence Forces equipped with the latest and best equipment and training. That is critical to ensure they can operate safely and effectively in support of international peace and security.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 75; Níl, 42; Staon, 0.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Denise Mitchell.
Question declared carried.