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Dáil Diary no 28- 31st March 2015

Dáil votes 73 votes to 24 against Neutrality - Out of Step with the Irish People once again...

Here's the second part of my contribution on the Neutrality Bill last Friday. This evening, the Bill was defeated by 73 votes to 24. Sadly, the Politicians are well out of step with how the Irish people feel. A recent opinion Poll showed that over 80% of the Irish People were in favour of Neutrality. But it's hardly new, for the bubble that is Dáil Eireann, to be disconnected from the people...

"I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Clearly, the Government does not wish to put any form of neutrality legislation into the Constitution. The Minister of State has been rubbishing the Hague Convention on the basis that no one has signed up to it for 50 years, but what he forgets is that the Hague Convention is part of customary international law on neutrality. It has been updated by other measures such as the UN charter, but even Judge Kearns accepted the fact in 2003 that the Hague Convention was still a key element of international law on neutrality. He also accepted that we were not militarily neutral. Does the Minister of State realise that if we were signed up to the Hague Convention it would not have been possible for us to allow Shannon Airport to be used as a US military air base and to be used by the US for the bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq in particular and many wars since then?

Let us talk about countries that are neutral because we are not neutral. The Government should start to tell the truth in that regard. Austria and Switzerland are neutral. They do not allow the Americans to fly over their country with arms. It is not allowed because they are neutral and we are not.
I wish to respond to some of the other points made by the Minister of State. He said neutrality is a core element of Irish foreign policy. If we were neutral we would not take sides, but we take sides all the time

I heard the Minister for Defence say in here that we need an honest debate on this issue. He is right. We do need this debate. I think the Minister, a staunch neoliberal, would be in favour of the Government getting off the neutrality fence it seems to think it is on, and admitting that it is not neutral because it is not. The Government says it promotes disarmament. Any country that promotes disarmament would not allow the US military to bring arms through our country. How is that promoting disarmament? The Government says it promotes international peace. If we allow someone to land in Shannon, bring guns through our country, refuel here, go on to a war situation, drop bombs on people and kill a million civilians in a 13-year period, I do not understand how that is promoting international peace, because war never promotes peace, it never promotes justice. It does other things. It promotes the arms industry, which is making an absolute fortune out of US foreign policy. Deputy Tóibín mentioned the fact that the US is spending something like $189 billion per annum on arms. There is a good reason for that. We should just take a look at who paid for President Obama's election campaign. A person does not get elected for nothing in the US. It costs over $1 billion. President Obama did not have the money himself so he got help from people and he must help them back. The arms industry is one of those donors and has become more and more powerful over time.

The Minister of State said that the world has moved on given that the Hague Convention dates from 1907. He is right. The world has moved on. On 5 September 1945, a journalist called Wilfred Burchett reported from Hiroshima. He warned that he had just witnessed an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale which had launched a new era of terror. How prophetic his words were. It has continued to get worse. The world has moved on but it has moved in the wrong direction. What is happening on this planet today is too bad. It is too bad that we have played a part in a million people dying in the Middle East in the past 13 years. We have played a part in that. It just beggars belief that we do not care more about the effects of what we have allowed to happen on our soil and through our airspace.

The current mayhem in Syria comes from the Shia-Sunni civil war that resulted from the Iraq invasion. The Shia and the Sunni have lived together in Iraq for a long time. They have always had their differences but they were not eating each other alive and chopping each other's heads off. They are doing so now. We argued in here in 2011 about the decision by NATO - which was supposed to be an organisation designed to defend countries in Europe from Russia - to bomb the living daylights out of Libya, a country in Africa. What did NATO do to the place? It destroyed it and this Government supported it. It argued in favour of it in here, as did Fianna Fáil. It beggars belief. It was gas listening to the Fianna Fáil Deputy today saying that it was reprehensible that someone should consider having a European army. I am not interested in having a European army either. I am not interested in any armies. Was it not reprehensible for Fianna Fáil to justify us helping the Americans in 2003 to invade Iraq? It said nobody opposed it. France opposed the invasion of Iraq and Austria and Switzerland did not help in the way we did. Was that reprehensible? Was what we signed off on in Libya reprehensible? NATO has become an imperial force, not a defence force. There is nothing to defend anymore. Russia is not going to attack Europe. It is just crazy. Ireland is in a unique position. We are a small island in the Atlantic and are not on the European mainland. We do not have to be part of a coalition in case Europe is attacked. We could not do anything about it anyway. We are different. It is just crazy.

Deputy Boyd Barrett spoke about Ibrahim Halawa. It is very significant that we have not been more vocal on the issue. I am sure something is being done behind the scenes but we are too quiet about it. Egypt is guilty of huge human rights abuses but the US has continued to give it arms. It says it promotes democracy. It approved and helped to put down the protest in Bahrain and has approved the attack by Saudi Arabia on Yemen. The Americans pick and choose what suits them and there is no fairness and zero justice involved.

The sad part for us is that we are complicit. If the Government thinks the Irish people would not be as interested in a referendum on neutrality in Ireland as they might be in a referendum on what age the President should be, I beg to differ. I find that incredible. The Irish people genuinely believe that Ireland does not want to be part of any war. By allowing Shannon to be used as a US military base, we are complicit in war and war crimes. It is not what the Irish people want.

Mick Wallace.


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