[Sinn Fein]

21st May 2003

Bluff is over: Defence Minister shows government's true hand on neutrality

Speaking following the Defence Minister's call for lifting the restriction on Irish Defence Forces serving abroad without a UN mandate to allow for unlimited participation in an EU Army, Sinn Fein spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said:

``We believe the government's true policy on neutrality is to abandon it - albeit incrementally and covertly - and to eventually back an EU army and some form of transatlantic military alliance. Sinn Fein first asserted this in 1997 that the Fianna Fáil/PD government has no commitment to neutrality or an independent foreign policy in the context of Ireland joining NATO's Partnership for Peace without a referendum. We asserted it again during Nice I and Nice II, and again when we opposed Ireland's collusion in the invasion of Iraq.

``The Government accused us of crying wolf. They called us conspiracy theorists. A few months ago, in response to their protestations that the policy of neutrality was sound as houses, Sinn Fein called on the Government to put its money where its mouth is on neutrality and to let the people decide by holding a referendum on enshrining neutrality in the constitution. They showed their true colours then by voting the Sinn Fein proposition down. The Minister's comments in Brussels only prove us right once again.

``Sinn Fein remains committed to an independent foreign policy for Ireland with positive neutrality in action at its core. We want to see neutrality enshrined in the constitution, and the Government made accountable to the Dáil in relation to participating in OR aiding any war or other armed conflict. We also believe that Irish policy must be truly internationalist and accountable to the rest of the world, with UN primacy at its core. Ireland should campaign to reform and strengthen the UN as the best hope for international peace and justice.''

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