[Sinn Fein]

12th March 2003

Taoiseach waffles before Baghdad burns

Sinn Fein spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has accused the Taoiseach of ``hiding behind a veil of secrecy'' in relation to the war on Iraq. Deputy Ó Snodaigh made his comments after the Taoiseach in the Dáil today yet again refused to say what action the Government would take if the US acted without a UN mandate. The Dublin South Central TD also appealed to Government backbenchers to ``show some guts'' and take the lead from members of the British Labour Party who have been openly critical of the stance taken by their Prime Minister.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``I listened today with disbelief as the Taoiseach once again sought to avoid giving the Dáil and the people of this state any indication of his intentions in regard to the imminent war on Iraq. This is a matter of both national and international importance. The government must have an opinion on it. I don't believe they have no opinion and wonder if it isn't a case that this Government is hiding behind a veil of secrecy to avoid facing the people on this issue. Is this what we are to continue to expect in the context of the introduction of the severely curtailed and emasculated Freedom of Information Bill?

``It is clear now that the US is committed to going to war with or without the backing of the UN or any other state, including Britain. The people of Ireland have a right to know what the Irish Governments position is. It is no longer acceptable for the Taoiseach to use the excuse of waiting for the outcome of the UN vote. It is already abundantly clear that the vote will fail because it will be vetoed by at least three members of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The Irish Government only has two options - it either supports the US going it alone and without a UN mandate or it doesn't - it's that simple.

``Today in the Dáil instead of Nero fiddling while Rome burned it was the Taoiseach waffling before Baghdad burns.

``I would call on the many Fianna Fáil backbenchers who are clearly uneasy about this Governments stance on the war to show some guts and take a lead from the members of the Labour Party in Britain who have been openly critical of their Prime Minister and may yet bring the man to his senses.''

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