[Sinn Fein]

29th January 2003

Ó Snodaigh accuses Government of hypocrisy over war on Iraq

Speaking at the Private Members debate on Iraq Sinn Fein spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh said: ``This Government has deliberately and repeatedly misled both the Dáil and the Irish people on the use of Shannon Airport to transport troops and munitions on their way to prepare for war on Iraq.

``They have been complicit in war preparations in the absence of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

``The Taoiseach and Minister Cowen have repeatedly assured this House since early October that they consider the UN to be supreme in these matters, and that they will abide by Security Council resolutions.

``Since October the Taoiseach has insisted that no deal exists with the US to allow Shannon to be used for war preparations. But they have also been very evasive in their answers to direct questions put by myself and numerous other Deputies in this House as to whether the Government has offered cooperation with the US Government in their war preparations.

``Yet according to recent revelations the Government has allowed Shannon to be used as a pit-stop on the way to war by both civilian and military aircraft. BUT The Security Council has NOT authorised force, and any facilitation of the current US-led war build-up is NOT in keeping with current Security Council policy. Therefore, they have deceived the Dáil and the public about their true position.

These war preparations have taken place in violation of:

``This Government have therefore breached the obligations of neutral states as defined by Articles 2 and 5 of the Hague Convention V Respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land. (Article 2 states that ``belligerents are forbidden to move troops or convoys of either munitions of war OR supplies across the territory of a neutral power,''and article 5 states that it is the responsibility of the neutral power itself to ensure that this does not occur.

``They have done all this without the assent of the Dáil, in violation of Article 28 (3) (1) of the Constitution (and not to mention, contrary to the spirit of Article 29.2 of the Constitution).

``Minister Cowen, in answer to my question of December 3, reassured me that the Government would ``at all times act in accordance with its Constitutional and legal obligations'' with respect to the granting of overflight and landing permission. They have not done so.

``I must put protest on record that this Government, despite repeated (at least 5) requests by myself and by SF since September 10, has refused to allow a proper and full debate of these issues. It is their responsibility to ensure that this debate happens.

``Why have they refused? They cite Article 29.4 of the Constitution on executive powers allowing for Government and Ministerial discretion in these matters. They don't intend to consult the Dáil, nor to answer to the Dáil until absolutely necessary. Yet at the same time, they claim over and over that they are in compliance with the relevant laws and the Constitution, and they are not.

``They are hypocrites and I will continue to expose their hypocrisy and deceit.

``This Government is systematically abandoning neutrality by stealth:

``I will finish by demanding the immediate cessation of military overflights and landings by foreign powers preparing for or participating in war, in keeping with our laws, Constitution, and rights and responsibilities as a Neutral Power.''ENDS

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