[Sinn Fein]

20th March 2003

Full text of speech by Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD during debate on war on Iraq

It is a sad day. We meet against the backdrop of war unleashed and its, as yet, unknown consequences. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs seek to defend the indefensible. I appeal to those in the ranks of Fianna Fáil for whom this motion is a clear betrayal of fundamental principles to take courage from the lead of those Labour Members of Parliament in Britain who stood against their party leader's position and intent. I urge them to vote today with their conscience.

No argument of principle has been advanced by the Government, least of all by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to justify the continued provision of Shannon to the US military machine now at war with Iraq.

We are offered instead the entirely disingenuous argument that stopovers and overflights by US military aircraft have always been facilitated. The Taoiseach even cited use of landing facilities by US military planes during the Vietnam War. Has he made any judgement of the rights or wrongs of that facilitation? Has he given our role at that time any assessment in the light of all we now know of that appalling war in South-East Asia? Does the Taoiseach believe that Ireland's facilitation of the US military machine during the Vietnam war, when chemical weapons such as Agent Orange and napalm were unleashed on the civilian population of that country, was right or wrong? It is conservatively estimated that over 2 million people died in that war. This is hardly a glorious precedent to cite in again justifying Ireland's facilitation of the US military on route to war.

The Taoiseach has also attempted to create a smokescreen by stating that France and Germany, which are opposed to the US-British axis of war, are facilitating overflights and landings. These countries are members of the NATO military alliance - this State is not. Austria is a neutral state and it will not allow overflights. According to the Taoiseach - it is repeatedly affirmed - we have a policy of military neutrality. What exactly does that mean?

The Government has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to Resolution 1441. However, when the United States and Britain effectively tore up that resolution this Government just sat and watched. This is a continuation of the pathetic and shameful stance of the Irish Government, which has squandered a real opportunity to assert the independence and integrity of small nations, and which, in its position on the UN Security Council, wasted a trust placed in it by small and neutral countries. It sided instead with the powerful - with might - and ignored the wishes of the Irish people and its duty to play a pivotal role for dialogue, negotiation and peace on the international stage.

Has our history, distant and contemporary, taught this Government anything? Does the Taoiseach believe that this war is about freeing the Iraqi people? If so, he clearly knows little of the history of Iraq and the Middle East. In his address this morning, the Taoiseach stated that: ``The provision of facilities does not make Ireland a member of a military coalition nor does anybody regard us as such.''

The Taoiseach emphasised the final point. I counter that claim and say that the Taoiseach is wrong. I quote from President Bush's war declaration when he stated: ``More than 35 countries are giving crucial support, from the use of naval and air bases to help with intelligence and logistics to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honour of serving in our common defence.''

The Taoiseach's claim that nobody views us as such clearly holds no weight when President Bush himself affirms that the Government's participation and support puts it firmly among those in the coalition. I urge support for the amendments as tabled by my colleagues in the House.


The following four amendments have been put down in the names of the Sinn Fein Deputies:

4. In the first line of the first paragraph, before ``guarantor'' to insert ``sole''.

5. In the second line of the first paragraph, before ``appropriate'' to insert ``only''.

6. After the first paragraph to insert the following:

``Calls on all states in possession of weapons of mass destruction to put them verifiably beyond use;

Condemns the deplorable human rights record of the Hussein regime in Iraq, and supports self-determination for the Kurdish people;''.

7. To delete all words after the second paragraph and substitute the following:

``Deplores the fact that the US-British-Spanish ultimatum has effectively sabotaged the work of the UN arms inspectors;

Unequivocally rejects the doctrine of pre-emption;

Recognises that the planned US-British invasion of Iraq is proceeding without a UN mandate, and is counter to international law and the will of the international community;

Affirms that this Government will not participate in or aid this war in any way;

Affirms that overflight and landing privileges shall be immediately withdrawn for the duration of the war for all foreign aircraft carrying troops, munitions, and other supplies intended to assist the war effort, in keeping with our rights and duties as a neutral state, our laws, and constitution;

Calls on the United Nations to assume a central role in securing the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples and the reconstruction of Iraq, in which Ireland will play its full part.''

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