[Sinn Fein]

28th March 2003

Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2003

Address by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Spokesperson on International Affairs and Defence, on Neutrality motion

There is a long tradition of republican support for military neutrality as a cornerstone of an independent foreign policy in an independent Ireland. Wolfe Tone called for Irish neutrality because he believed it was wrong for Irish people to sacrifice their lives to realise another state's ambitions. For the same reasons, James Connolly and the founder of this party, Arthur Griffith, co-founded the first Irish Neutrality Association, to oppose Irish involvement in the Boer War, which was fundamentally about the British Government seizing control of South African mineral resources.

Republican support for neutrality is no less relevant today. Our vision of positive neutrality in action is not about pacifism or isolationism. It is fully in keeping with our anti-imperialism, our internationalism, and our commitment to demilitarisation and conflict resolution through dialogue.

The mass mobilisations on our streets in recent months, and the depth of public concern for protecting Irish neutrality during both Nice campaigns have shown that the demand is there for constitutional neutrality, and it should be for the people to decide the issue by referendum.

The next EU Treaty due in 2004 has huge implications for Irish neutrality even more so than Nice. All indications are that this new Treaty will consolidate the militarisation of the EU by establishing a ``Defence Euro-Zone''; creating an EU Armaments Agency to support a new European military-industrial complex; introducing a so-called ``solidarity clause'' requiring collective action in defence of any member state; and by removing the need for unanimity among the states on defence-related decisions.  

But, comrades, the biggest threat to Irish neutrality today is this Government's own policy. Fianna Fáil and the PDs have repeatedly lied and misled the Irish people about their support for neutrality. Irish neutrality is no longer just at risk. It has been willfully abandoned, it has been auctioned off to the highest bidders by this right-wing coalition.

The Government's covert policy of abandoning neutrality has finally been exposed. The Sinn Fein Neutrality Bill to amend the constitution forced the Government and all parties to go on record. But this was only the first step. We know that neutrality violations are NOT exclusive to Shannon. And the Taoiseach's outrageously cavalier comments about Irish cooperation in the Vietnam War show that neutrality violations are also not exclusive to this war. What we need now is full public disclosure, not ad-hoc information squeezed out of a secretive Government, and we are therefore proposing a comprehensive Neutrality Audit as a matter of urgency.   

The time has come to actively campaign for positive neutrality with Constitutional protection. Sinn Fein has already seized the initiative. As republicans we have the capacity to show leadership on this issue of great national importance. And indeed we have the responsibility to advocate that Government respect the will of the majority on this island. I commend this motion to the Ard Fheis.

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