[Sinn Fein]

3rd October 2002

Sinn Fein to fight Government and Labour on gutting of EU scrutiny bill

Following the Labour Party's decision to capitulate to Government amendments gutting their proposed European Union scrutiny bill, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Europe Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has confirmed that Sinn Fein will strongly oppose the amended bill at report stage.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``There were several positive elements in the European Union Bill 2001 originally tabled by Ruairi Quinn that would have significantly enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of EU legislation. There are many aspects of this bill that we would have supported.

``We also had a number of significant concerns with the bill as originally drafted, and Sinn Fein therefore tabled our own amendments. In our view, for example, the original bill continued to allow too much Ministerial discretion. It also would have allowed for Irish participation in the EU Rapid Reaction Force and with NATO's Partnership for Peace. Originally, therefore, the main thrust of the Sinn Fein amendments were to have these sections of the bill changed, to restrict the Irish Defense Forces abroad to participation in UN peacekeeping missions only, to narrow Ministerial discretion and thereby increase Government accountability on EU Affairs.

``However, the Government amendments accepted by Labour yesterday fundamentally gut the positive aspects of the original bill. They seek to circumscribe Oireachtas scrutiny of EU legislation and further increase Ministerial discretion. Such amendments are an affront to expressed public concerns about the need for increased scrutiny and reflect fully the arrogance and disdain with which the Government regards the Irish people. The Government/Labour amendments have also now struck out ANY reference to limiting the participation of the Irish Defence Forces in UN missions only when deployed abroad. This is a serious cause for concern, particularly if Nice passes, and in the context of the impending war on Iraq.  It also flies in the face of expressed public concerns about the status of Irish neutrality, and Government promises that this is not under threat.

``Sinn Fein voted against these amendments at committee stage yesterday, and will vote against them when the bill reaches report stage. We believe that Labour should withdraw the bill rather than allow it to pass in the amended form proposed by the Government.''

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