25 October 1997
The Amsterdam Treaty and Irish Neutrality
Address by Seán Crowe
Sinn Fein Representative for Dublin South West
to the Peace and Neutrality Alliance conference
On behalf of Sinn Fein I want to compliment the Peace and Neutrality Alliance for organising this important conference.
There is a glaring lack of real debate on the vital question of Irish neutrality. Your organisation has kept the issue on the political agenda. Almost alone, you have alerted the Irish public to the reality of what is being done in our names behind closed doors in Brussels and Strasbourg.
The recent signing of the Amsterdam Treaty received minimal media coverage in Ireland. Evenless was heard of the profound implications for Irish sovereignty and neutrality. We in our party are no strangers to censorship and marginalisation in the media so we share the frustration of all those who have hit what seems like a brick wall as they put forward an alternative view on Irish foreign policy and Irish neutrality.
The issue of neutrality is surrounded by myths and misconceptions. We are told it is based on anti-Britishness. We are told that it is anti-European. We are told it is backward-looking. Even many of those who defend neutrality weaken their case by constantly referring to it as ``our tradition of neutrality''.
Neutrality is not anti-British it is pro-Irish. It's not anti-European but seeks a more enlightened definition of Europe. It is forward looking. And it is much more than a tradition. It is a principle and a policy essential for our survival and development as a peaceful and democratic country.
For many years now the process of European Union integration has been steadily eroding our sovereignty and our neutrality. At each stage successive governments have given a little more away. On the few occassions they have had to come to the people to approve their latest abandonment of our rights, they have assured us that nothing has really changed.
They are saying the same thing this time around. Yet the reality is there in the words of the Amsterdam Treaty which reiterates the EU's ``common foreign and security policy'' and ``the progressive framing of a common defence policy''.
Speaking in Leinster House on 10 July the then Foreign Minister Ray Burke said the Treaty does not provide for integration of the NATO's Western European Union with the EU. ``Nor is EU/Western European Union integration stated anywhere in the Treaty as an objective'' he added. But the Treaty clearly states:
``The Western European Union (WEU) is an integral part of the development of the Union providing the Union with access to an operational capability... It supports the Union in framing the defence aspects of the common foreign and security policy as set out in this Article. The Union shall accordingly foster closer insitutional relations with the Western European Union with a view to the possibility of the integration of the Western European Union into the European Union, should the European Council so decide.''
If there is a difference between this and having WEU integration with the European Union as an objective it is a very tiny difference indeed.
Minister Burke also said that he ``did not see how integration could be compatible with our military neutrality''. This was a welcome statement but it is totally incompatible with the Declaration adopted at Amsterdam which commits this State to support the following:
``In the `Declaration on the Role of the Western European Union and its Relations with the European Union and with the Atlantic Alliance' of 10 December 1991, Western European Union Member States set as their objective `to build up WEU in stages as the defence component of the European Union'. They today reaffirm this aim as developed by the Amsterdam Treaty.''
The Irish government has signed up to that. They also signed up to a paragraph which gets very little attention and says:
``The progressive framing of a common defence policy will be supported, as member states consider appropriate, by co-operation between them in the field of armaments.''
This points to the real agenda behind the drive to a common defence policy.
In all the NATO and WEU countries there are military bureaucracies linked to arms industries for whom the end of the Cold War was very unwelcome indeed. Where now was the excuse for the existence of the military-industrial complex?
Instead of widespread nuclear disarmament, the wholesale reduction of armies and the conversion of arms industries, we have seen the nuclear infrastructure kept intact, the expansion of NATO and the Western EuropeaN Union and an ever-growing arms industry fuelling wars throughout the world. When they speak of common European defence we have to ask ``Defence against what?'' They are turning Europe into the biggest economic and military power in the world and we got a foretaste of what that means in the Gulf War. Speaking at the conference of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers on 15 November 1994 Commandant Dermot Donnellly of the Air Corps said the following:
``It was estimated by a Harvard research group that up to 70,000 Iraquis were killed in that war. Do we want to be part of the genocide? Do we want to be responsible for children in Iraq at present having operations without anaesthetics and dying for want of cheap and readily available drugs? Had we been in a European army we would share some of the responsibility for these obscenities.'' Make no mistake, the ultimate aim of the common defence policy is a European army which would, in the words of Jacques Delors, fight the resource wars of the 21st century.
It is often forgotten in the neutrality debate that part of Ireland is under the jurisdiction of one of the leading NATO powers - Britain. In the context of the peace process the British government has said that it has no strategic interest in the Six Counties and this is given credence on the basis of the ending of the Cold War and the removal of the fear of what one British minister once described as a possible Cuba on their doorstep. But strategic considerations are not only global.
During the course of the peace process my party has identified the role of what we have called the `securocrats' in the British establishment - military and intelligence top brass who have a vested interest in the continuation of conflict. For three decades they have used the Six Counties as a training ground for their troops and a testing ground for the most sophisticated surveillance equipment in the world. The end of the Cold War spread panic throughout the biggest single intelligence organisation - MI5. What could their new role be? They were duly given a much enhanced role in the Irish conflict. Indeed the career of Stella Rimington, the most famous head of MI5 who pioneered its new role, was built on two things - fighting the National Union of Mineworkers and fighting the IRA.
I mention these issues to illustrate the point that powerful vested interests in the military and in their related arms industries can have political influence which is very often underestimated.
And meanwhile all the military apparatus of NATO in Ireland has yet to be reduced despite the peace negotiations.
The nuclear based Western European Union is the European wing of NATO. It could not operate without NATO. Its weapons are NATO's, its defence is underpinned by NATO, its soldiers are NATO's, its planning have to approved by NATO.The NATO /WEU the names may have changed but the militaristic agenda remains the same.
In conclusion I want to thank PANA for bringing together the diverse parties, groups and individuals who share a strong commitment to positive neutrality and an independent and progressive Irish foreign policy. We have a difficult task ahead of us in the run up to the referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty but we also have the ability to make an impact. Our job is not only to halt the erosion of neutrality but to establish it more centrally to the way we want to run our country and our foreign policy in the new century.
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