[Sinn Fein]

21th June 2002

``Neutrality declaration will not change Treaty of Nice'' - Ó Caoláin

The Government's proposed declaration on neutrality will not change the Treaty of Nice and will not be enough to quell opposition to the running of a second referendum on the Treaty rejected by the people last year, according to Sinn Fein Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. The Sinn Fein TD also challenged the Government to adopt the Constitutional amendment on neutrality which he had put before the Dáil in Bill form in April 2001.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

``The proposed declaration on neutrality has been touted around Europe by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the past week while it was hidden from the elected representatives of the Irish people. It is disgraceful that this text was shown only to the Fine Gael and Labour leaders and that all TDs were not afforded even the courtesy of a copy.

``This proposed declaration will not alter one syllable of the Treaty of Nice. The government will put before the electorate exactly the same Treaty they rejected last year. Not only has the government not respected the decision of the people - they have actively defied it by encouraging all other member states to ratify Nice on the basis that the Irish people will `get it right' the second time around.

Put Neutrality in the Constitution

``It is reported that the Government is considering a constitutional amendment to reflect the proposed declaration on neutrality. I challenge the Government to adopt the referendum legislation I published last year, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2001, with the support of Sinn Fein, the Green Party, the Socialist Party and Independents Tony Gregory and Seamus Healy. This constitutional amendment would enshrine military neutrality in the Constitution.

I would welcome the adoption of this proposal by the government as it would ensure our non-membership of military alliances.

``Why was a neutrality amendment not proposed by the Government before now? Clearly they believed that such a protection for neutrality in the Constitution would leave open to challenge the government's decision, in violation of Bertie Ahern's promise to the electorate, to join NATO's so-called Partnership for Peace and to appoint a representative to NATO headquarters. It would also undermine the decision to join the EU Rapid Reaction Force. Also challenged would be the Government decision to allow US military aircraft to carry out training exercises in Irish airspace on the June bank holiday weekend.

``Neutrality is not the only issue in the Nice Treaty debate. Our core objection to the Treaty is that it moves the EU away from a partnership of equal states and towards a centralised superstate dominated by the larger powers. No amount of fancy footwork in Seville can hide that fact.

``Sinn Fein will campaign vigorously against the Treaty of Nice and our organisation has been put on alert that an all-out effort must be made in the coming months.''

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