[Sinn Fein]

2nd May 2002

Fianna Fáil's promised declaration on neutrality meaningless

Sinn Fein representative to the Forum on Europe and candidate for Dublin South Central  Aengus Ó Snodaigh this morning  described Fianna Fáil's declaration on neutrality as meaningless and stated that Sinn Fein in the next Dáil will bring forward legislation to enshrine neutrality in the Constitution. This is all the more urgent given that today we are witnessing the largest peacetime training exercise in this history of the state as part of the government's commitment to the Rapid Reaction Force. Mr. Ó Snodaigh said:

``A key concern for the electorate, over the last number of years, is the ongoing militarisation of the EU and the impact of this on our neutrality.

``In opposition Bertie Ahern promised a referendum on the issue of the `Partnership for Peace'. The `U' turn on this issue has been well publicised as has the commitment of troops to the Rapid Reaction Force. Sinn Fein believes that in light of the Nice Treaty result the next government has a clear democratic obligation to withdraw from it.

``The recent government proposal to produce a declaration on Irish neutrality is a political move in advance of a re-run of the referendum. It has no legal effect and more importantly has no effect on the Nice Treaty. Sinn Fein is proposing that Irish neutrality be enshrined in the constitution, only then can it be guaranteed. 

``In its manifesto the Labour Party is proposing an amendment to the Constitution on neutrality. This is not the first time the Labour Party has promised such a referendum. Its last leader Dick Sping also made such a promise and failed to deliver when he was in government. Our TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin published a Bill last year to enshrine neutrality in the Constitution. It was not supported by the Labour Party

``However, in the new Dáil, we would look forward to working with the Labour Party to ensure that neutrality is written into the Constitution. We would also call on them to support the demand for withdrawal from the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO's so-called Partnership for Peace.''

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