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Dáil Diary no 22. 10 March 2015

Ireland has Abandoned Neutrality. We Promote War, Not Peace…

Since 2001 Irish Governments have done everything in their power to ensure that the US Military have unimpeded passage through Irish airspace and Shannon Airport. The law is being interpreted and abused in order to do so. Ministers consistently avoid answering questions put to them, instead repeating the same old mantras about sovereign immunity, longstanding practices, and US assurances. The Irish Government claims that all the “military” flights are unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and do not form part of military exercises or operations. So we’re supposed to believe that there wasn’t as much as a single gun or round of ammunition on any of the 741 military planes that sought permission to land in Ireland or to overfly in 2014. And what’s more, we’re supposed to accept that none of them were in any way connected to military exercises or operations.- Ridiculous. Here’s my contribution on the Peace and Neutrality Bill in the Dáil last Friday.

“It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry in response to the incredible contribution we have just heard the Minister make. This and previous Governments dating back to 1999 have been disingenuous about our position on neutrality. It is simply too bad at this stage. The more we research and investigate the issue, the worse it looks. None of the four Departments dealing with Shannon Airport, namely, the Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Justice and Equality; Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Defence, is taking responsibility.

The idea that Ireland is a neutral state has zero credibility. The Minister stated we are committed to the ideal of peace and choose to remain neutral. This statement is incorrect because we have taken sides. We would not allow Russia or Islamic State to use Shannon Airport to transport combatants to a war front and we would be right not to allow them to do so. We should not allow any military force to use Shannon Airport. I have no interest in what Russia gets up to and would not defend it for two minutes, no more than I would defend people who commit violence anywhere. However, we are taking sides.

About a year ago, I was involved in an argument in a pub in Ennis when a man got mad with me for raising issues about the US military's use of Shannon Airport. I asked him if he realised how many hundreds of thousands of people were dying at the hands of the US military war machine, which we were facilitating by allowing it to use the airport. His response was to tell me that he sold sandwiches in the airport and we should allow the Americans to keep coming. The attitude is that there is money in it for us.

Deputy Simon Coveney:  That is not the Government's attitude.

Mick Wallace:  The Minister may recall that I did not once interrupt him during his 20 minute speech.

We are eager to engage companies providing foreign direct investment, most of which are from the United States, which is proper order. I do not have a problem with that because it is great that these companies are creating so many jobs here. However, the truth is that we are prepared to allow innocent civilians to be slaughtered in order that we can have jobs and improve our business capacity. Only two weeks ago, the Minister linked the use of Shannon Airport with the opening of the US market to Irish beef. The attitude is one of "We do well out of them and they do well out of us".

Deputy Simon Coveney:  I did not make such a link. The Deputy is being disingenuous.

Mick Wallace:  The Minister did make such a link. I will send him a copy of his remarks.

Deputy Simon Coveney:   I said it was a matter of trust.

Mick Wallace:  How in God's name can the Minister claim that Shannon Airport is not being used by aeroplanes engaged in military exercises? What would be the point of these flights coming through Shannon Airport if not for military reasons? Are the troops coming through the airport on their way to the Middle East to play golf? The 2.5 million troops who have passed through the airport since 2001 are not going on their holidays.
Deputy Clare Daly and I are forbidden from discussing the issues arising from our court case because it is ongoing and we will be before the court again next Tuesday. However, we will have much to say about the matter afterwards.
It is not true, as the Minister claims, that we have facilitated the US military at Shannon Airport for 50 years. Game-changing moments occurred in 1999 and 2003 when the then Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, misled the Dáil. We did not maintain any neutrality when we allowed Shannon Airport to be used for the invasion of Iraq.

There are too many aspects to this issue and I do not have enough time to deal with all of them. However, I want to touch on the Costa Rican aspect, as described by a barrister from Costa Rica who visited us. In 2003, when the Americans decided to invade Iraq, they did so without sanction from the United Nations and without sanction to occupy Iraq or Afghanistan. They went into Afghanistan without UN permission to invade and without a UN order to occupy it. We were complicit in that and it is outrageous that we still have seven troops there. The people of Costa Rica did not like the idea that they were being signed up to the US war mission in Iraq, but the Costa Rican Government voted to support it, much like our lads here who supported it against the will of the people, which brought 100,000 protesters out onto the streets of Dublin. In Costa Rica a barrister took a case to the courts and won. The main reason he won was the courts ruled the invasion was illegal and in breach of international law. We are in breach of international law by allowing Shannon Airport to be used for military purposes. We are not neutral.

  I will read some of the Costa Rican barrister's argument:
"Neutrality may be defined as the attitude of impartiality adopted by third States towards belligerents and recognized by belligerents, such attitude creating rights and duties between the impartial States and the belligerents" ... neutrality is not just a matter of international politics but rather a matter of international law.

The general principles enshrined in the Hague Conventions are widely accepted as customary rules of international law.

In general principle and according to the Hague Conventions, the adoption of a neutral standing implies certain obligations towards belligerent States; freedom from hostile acts, respect for its territorial integrity, respect for its political sovereignty.

Respect for its territorial integrity refers directly to the provision regarding the prohibition of passage for war machinery, say, the neutral country can't even be ''en route' to the warzone. Say the less, using the country as a station.

... Classically, neutrality has been linked to 2 elements; non participation and non discrimination.

Non participation seems quite clear and obvious, the neutral State cannot take ANY action related to the war itself ...

Non discrimination means that the rules of neutrality, as well as its implications and legal consequences, will be applied equally to either side of the conflict.

Some authors note that "to qualify for treatment as a neutral, a state had to assume an attitude of impartiality toward the belligerent. Policies adopted by the neutral state had to be applied equally to all parties at war. In return for assuming the duty of impartiality toward belligerents, the neutral was guaranteed the inviolability of its territory and freedom from belligerent acts".

Permanent or "perpetual" neutrality overcomes the theoretical problem of having to identify those belligerent, as it loses any importance. Whatever the conflict and whoever the Parties, a policy of permanent neutrality remains on top of the particularities.

The Costa Ricans won their case and the ideal of peace has now been enshrined. The Minister says we are committed to the ideal of peace. The Costa Ricans are committed to it and have enshrined it in their constitution. They are not allowed to support anyone who tries to resolve a conflict using arms or weapons.

  This is a small island and we should be 100% neutral. The entire Middle East region has been destroyed and the situation there has got worse. ISIS is a creation from the original invasion of Iraq and was formed out of the troubles in 2006. What is happening is horrific, as is what is happening in Syria and Palestine. We are not neutral because we allow Shannon Airport to be used as a military base. We could play a different role and could be neutral. We should be working towards peace. Take Ukraine as an example. There is no military solution to what is wrong there. Russia should be incorporated into a peaceful Europe. It should sit down with ther rest of Europe. Ukraine should be neutral and everyone else should stay out of its business. What is happening is outrageous. We are not working towards peace but war.

  There was a time when wars were fought over territory, money or resources. Today, more than anything else, it is about promoting the arms industry. It costs €1 billion to be elected President of America. The arms industry is one of the main contributors to a campaign and needs its money back. This means having to invade somebody, drop bombs and kill people to promote the industry. That is the main reason behind the escalation of war throughout the world. It is the promotion of the arms industry, in which we are not innocent.

  The Minister made some comments about Shannon Airport that were outrageous. They were unfair and untrue, but we will deal with that issue after the court case.

Mick Wallace.

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