[Sinn Fein]

18th March 2003

Ó Snodaigh calls for free vote on Iraq and appeals to Government TDs to take a principled stand

Sinn Fein spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has this evening welcomed the decision of the Government to recall the Dáil to debate the war on Iraq. Deputy Ó Snodaigh cautioned against it being used as a Government versus Opposition slagging match and asked all parties to allow a free vote on the issue.

The Dublin South Central TD said ``it has been clear for a long time that the vast majority of the people are against this war. And while it is welcome it is nonetheless regrettable that the Taoiseach has only now at this very late stage afforded the elected representatives of the people a proper opportunity to debate the issue.

``Ireland through the use of Shannon Airport and Baldonnel Aerodrome have been complicit in the build up to this war without even the fig leaf of a UN mandate and in direct contravention of our duties as a neutral state. And because of Bertie Ahern's disregard for the views of the people and the absolute arrogance of his Government Ireland will be partially responsible for the untold suffering that will be visited upon the civilian population of Iraq over the coming weeks.

``In many ways this debate has come too late as the bulk of the weapons of war have already arrived at their destination. However if the Taoiseach has any credibility at all left he must allow his party a free vote on the issue ? indeed I would call on all parties to allow for a free vote so that the Taoiseach can be left in no doubt as to the feelings of the people of this state as represented by their public representatives regardless of party affiliation.''

Deputy Ó Snodaigh concluded by calling on all TDs to ``take a principled stand on this issue and to vote with your conscience''.

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