By Anthony Neeson
A Sinn Féin Member of the European Parliament has claimed that Irish neutrality is being eroded by Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s comments if the face of the current terrorist threat in Europe.
Kenny has indicated that the Irish government was prepared to send a small number of Irish Defence Force personnel to Mali in West Africa to relieve French forces and thereby freeing them up to participate in operations in Syria following the attacks on Paris.
Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan said: "An Taoiseach made this announcement in the wake of an EU wide meeting of defense ministers, where the French Minister of Defence, Jean Yves Le Drian, received unanimous support for the use of the Mutual Defence Clause of the Lisbon Treaty, a clause which Sinn Féin consistently argued undermined our neutrality.
“Irish neutrality is being systematically eroded by current and previous governments. Irish participation and financial support for the European Defence Agency, our involvement in the Rapid Reaction Force, and the continued use of Shannon airport by U.S. warplanes involved in several conflicts combine to show that Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil have, at best, a flippant attitude to neutrality.
“The suggestion that Irish soldiers may be sent to Mali to relieve French soldiers is indirectly involving the state in conflict and is the most recent example of an undermining of our position of neutrality.”
Boylan said Sinn Féin has consistently argued that Ireland needs a “legally binding protocol on neutrality.”
And she added:“The Danish government secured an opt-out clause from the European Defence Agency and Ireland should move to mirror this model,” she said.
“The Irish Defence Forces are incredibly active and play an admirable, humanitarian role, internationally. Irish troops have been deployed in a peace-keeping capacity for decades in several conflict areas across the world.
“The Irish Naval Service has been instrumental in coordinating and participating in search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean. Between them, the crews of LÉ Eithne, LÉ Samuel Beckett and LÉ Niamh have rescued thousands of lives.
“This is the type of work our Defence Forces should be doing. They should not be involved, directly or indirectly, in conflict, or in the facilitation of conflict."