[Sinn Fein]

9th April 2003

Ó Snodaigh calls on Government to `admit that Irish neutrality is a lie'

Sinn Fein spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh this afternoon called on the Irish Government to "come clean and admit that Irish neutrality is a lie". Deputy Ó Snodaigh was responding to comments made by Minister Brian Cowen in response to a question on Ireland's neutrality in the Dáil today. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Government has claimed that they have not breached Irish neutrality but the Irish people have a right to know exactly how the Government defines it and whether it even exists? For many weeks now I have been attempting to conduct what I would call a neutrality audit. I have asked a number of different Ministers a range of questions designed to ascertain to what extent our so-called neutrality is being breached by facilitating foreign military aircraft and ships on their way to war. So far the Government have refused to provide a comprehensive account.

"Again today the Minister refused point blank to answer my specific questions. However he did acknowledge that the Irish Government, alone amongst the international community, has a different definition of military neutrality to everybody else. He specifically said that he does not accept the Hague Convention definition of neutrality. But rather than provide the Governments alternative definition he claimed that in Irelands case it was best to keep it vague. And in an attempt to try and confuse the matter further he mischievously suggested that a UN Charter had since negated the 1907 Hague Convention in terms of defining the rights and duties of neutral states.

"It is clear from the Ministers response today, or the lack of it, that this Government has long since abandoned any desire or wish to respect and defend what most people regard as a positive aspect of Ireland's foreign policy.

"I am calling on the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to come clean and to explicitly admit that Irish neutrality is a lie, and has been a lie under successive Fianna Fáil Governments. The time for hiding behind evasive answers, misinformation has long past. It is time to stop treating the people with contempt and to confirm what is the reality - that is, we are not a neutral state."

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