[Sinn Fein]

1 May 2001

``Nice Treaty undermines neutrality'' - Ó Caoláin

The electorate should reject the Treaty of Nice in the forthcoming referendum because it undermines Irish neutrality and creates a two-tier EU, according to Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

Deputy Ó Caoláin was speaking at a press conference in Dublin organised by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance to launch the 25th Amendment to the Constitution Bill which would write neutrality into the Constitution. Deputy Ó Caoláin told the press conference:

``This Bill is co-sponsored by Deputies Trevor Sargent and John Gormley of the Green Party, Independent Deputy Seamus Healy and by Deputy Joe Higgins and Tony Gregory who are here with us. I introduced the Bill on behalf of all the co-sponsors of the Bill in the Dáil on 5 April. I commend the Peace and Neutrality Alliance on its initiative in having the Bill drafted.

``This is a significant initiative and it is timely that it should come now as we embark on the Nice Treaty referendum campaign. The proposed Amendment could not be more straightforward. Article 29.2 of the Constitution at present states:

``Ireland affirms its adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination.''

Our amendment would add the words: ``To this end the State shall, in particular, maintain a policy of non-membership of military alliances.''

``There is no doubt that the Treaty of Nice militarizes the European Union. The Treaty establishes a Political and Security Committee which will work in tandem with the EU Military Committee and the EU Military Staff and have the power to deploy the EU Army ? the Rapid Reaction Force.

``Already Irish government defence spending has increased significantly in order to upgrade military equipment and training to NATO level for participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Rapid Reaction Force. We have not heard a murmur of criticism from Fine Gael and the Labour Party, or from any government backbenchers about this. Spending tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer's money on weapons of destruction is far more worthy of real opposition and real debate than the Bertie Bowl which is one of the main subjects of debate in the Dáil this week. Whatever your opinion of that project it will be a venue for healthy pursuits.

``This Neutrality Amendment is essential now. If, as the government claims, Nice does not erode neutrality then it should adopt this amendment to ensure that the next step in the abandonment of neutrality - a mutual defence pact between EU states - is never taken.''

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