Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD addressed the Dáil today in response to the report of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Force.
He said that the debate surrounding the future role of our Defence Forces needs to be grounded in the principle of neutrality, which needs to be protected by enshrining it in the Constitution.
Teachta Brady said:
“Military neutrality is a principle respected by the overwhelming majority of Irish people. Opinion polls have consistently shown support levels at more than 80%. Neutrality has gifted Ireland a platform in international affairs that far exceeds the economic, political, or military strength of our island.
“Central to our neutrality lies the capacity of our Defence Forces to defend our neutrality from threat. While we are nominally free from formal involvement in any military alliance; participation in PESCO challenges this and we are militarily dependent on our European neighbours.
“The safety of our skies is dependent on an agreement with the British government that allows for the RAF to provide flight interdiction in specific emergencies. It is an agreement that embarrasses the government to the point that it appears to have difficulty acknowledging its existence.
“As an island nation, our seas represent one of our nation’s richest and most strategically important assets. Yet we are dependent on our EU neighbours to provide naval patrols to guarantee the security of our seas – even within our twelve-mile zone. Recent events have exposed our vulnerability to the hybrid nature of modern threats to the State.
“We need to see the principle of neutrality protected, by enshrining it in our Constitution.
“First and foremost, we need to invest in our Defence Forces to ensure that our nation has the capacity to defend our nation’s security. The first step is to secure the established number of our Defence Forces and to halt the exodus of key personnel from its ranks.”
Teachta Brady concluded:
“There are issues affecting retention and recruitment which the Minister can address immediately and would help to address some of the concerns of members of the Defence Forces. The Minister can give permission for PDFORRA to affiliate with ICTU right away and the Working Time Directive can be addressed immediately. The current situation cannot be allowed to continue.
“How the government responds to this report will not only reveal its attitude to the members of the Defence Forces, but its vision for Ireland’s place and standing within the international community in the years ahead.”