Mick Wallace Despite the usual 'nice' rhetoric from the #Democrats , the #US and #Saudi Coalition are continuing with their Coll… https://t.co/PDSQJJwylD
Mick Wallace Would be good if #mainstreammedia held #FiannaFail + #FineGael to account for voting for a terrible #CAP that aband… https://t.co/RFUXVmKnea
Mick Wallace The #EU needs to do more to stop the Collective Punishment of the people of #Tigray - This is a form of Genocide b… https://t.co/G5c6hiCa2q
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: The lack of concern shown by the #EU for the people of #Venezuela has been shocking and says much about their so called 'E…

Dail Diary

Dáil Diary no 30- 3rd April 2015

Policing- Government and Garda Commissioner pretend they want Reform - And pray that the media buy it...

 

Yesterday I had two questions for Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, but didn't get many answers. It is very clear now that GSOC does not have the power or resources to be an investigatory body, or have the potential to hold An Garda Siochana to account. It is also clear that while it is over a year since the former Commissioner Martin Callinan was got rid of, and nearly a year since the former Minister Alan Shatter went the same way- very little has changed. The new Garda Commissioner is cut from the same cloth as the former, and has no appetite for real reform. Neither does our new Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, who is beginning to make the former Minister Alan Shatter look like a Revolutionary. Here are some of my exchanges with the Minister in the Dáil yesterday.- 

 

"When will the Minister appoint a replacement for Simon O'Brien? It is strange that it has not happened. What process does she intend to use? I understand that section 65 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 allows for a 100% political appointment. Has the Minister considered changing that system in any way? It is obvious that despite the Minister having given an extra €1 million to GSOC this year, it is under-resourced and does not have the potential to do what it is supposed to do.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It is vital that the public has strong confidence in the Garda Síochána and the system of oversight of the Garda Síochána. The Government is implementing a comprehensive programme of reform in the areas of policing and justice. As part of the programme of change, the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Act 2015, which I will be commencing very shortly, will strengthen and clarify the remit and capacity of GSOC, and I will keep under review the case for further change.

I remain in contact with GSOC and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to resources for GSOC. I should mention in this regard that the recent budget granted GSOC an increase of €1 million in its allocation for 2015.

Mr. Simon O'Brien resigned from his position as chairperson of GSOC on 30 January 2015. Mr. O'Brien made an important contribution in his role as the chairperson of GSOC, as well as in his previous role as deputy to the chief inspector in the Garda Inspectorate, and I again put on record my appreciation for his service...

...the person who will be appointed to GSOC will serve out Mr. O'Brien's term of office which will expire at the end of December 2016. That is in line with the Act.

I wish to inform the House that following careful consideration of the matters, I have decided to advertise the position of chairperson of GSOC for the remainder of the term.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace The Minister said GSOC can carry on its work while waiting for the third commissioner to be appointed. The sad point is that it cannot carry out its work. It is under too much pressure. The extra workload involved in giving it the job of confidential recipient seems to be beyond it. For example, the case of a whistleblower named Keith Harrison was referred to GSOC last September. He spoke to Simon O’Brien in December and Mr. O’Brien said he was taking it very seriously but he has not heard a word since then and it is now April. Another whistleblower complained to GSOC in November 2014 and has heard nothing. They are both gardaí. GSOC does not have the capacity to behave as a confidential recipient.

GSOC’s remit was always intended to be investigatory, rather than review and oversight. It does not have a prayer of being an investigatory body without the necessary resources.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I meet with GSOC. We gave it €1 million extra in the recent budget and it recruited extra people. It is getting on with the job of investigation. I received its report for this year late yesterday which outlines its work. I cannot comment on individual cases but I am very keen that the public and the Garda have confidence in GSOC and that it gets on with the work of investigating. It is doing that.

The Deputy is quoting particular cases and timeframes. I do not know the reasons for those delays but it is examining the cases that come before it. The chairperson will be replaced soon. In the meantime, the other officers are getting on with the work.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace The Minister says the public has confidence in GSOC. That is not true. The Minister knows that it does not. As she said in response to the previous question, many complaints are based on the fact that people did not get satisfaction from GSOC. It is not that the people in GSOC are bad people, rather it does not have the potential to be the body it was intended to be. We all realise that it was structured in the first place not to succeed and sadly that remains the case.

In 2013, the UN rapporteur on human rights expressed concerns about how GSOC worked and said that the excessive dependence on the Department of Justice and Equality was worrying. It said that it should be an independent body. The Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No.3) Bill 2014 that the Minister brought in does not make it independent. It is too dependent on the Department and the Minister. The Minister has retained control over its ability to investigate the Garda Commissioner. It is not allowed to investigate retired gardaí. It does not expand the grounds of admissibility, does not require mandatory involvement of GSOC in all investigations, does not prohibit gardaí from serving in GSOC and does not reform the informal resolution mechanism. It was a very disappointing effort. The lack of resources is crucial. The Government will not get a GSOC that is fit for purpose until it gives it far more resources than it has done. If it wants it to work properly, it will have to resource it.

 

My second question related to the lack of real reform in an Garda Siochana, despite all the promises. -
 

"It is over a year since the Commissioner went and nearly a year since the Minister went but it is hard to see any serious change. Will the Minister tell me when she expects the police authority to be up and running? With regard to the implementation steering group, the Cabinet sub-committee oversees it. Is there external oversight of it? With regard to the Garda professional standards unit, GPSU, report on fixed charge notices, will the Minister tell me if anyone has been disciplined or any sanctions brought? What was the outcome of the internal disciplinary proceedings of the three gardaí referred to in the O'Mahoney report?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The question asks whether I am satisfied with efforts made to change the culture and workings of the Garda Síochána and to make a statement on that. Significant change, under the leadership of the new Garda Commissioner, is under way in the Garda Síochána. I unequivocally reject any suggestion otherwise. I will be publishing the policing authority Bill by the end of April or in May and we are working hard on it.

That legislation announces the most profound reform of the Garda organisation in its 93 year history.

Another important change was the appointment, for the very first time, of the new Commissioner by way of an open competition. This is a clear indication that change has come, and the Commissioner has not wasted any time in bringing about organisational and operational change. A new strategic transformation office has been established to ensure changes are being delivered correctly and on schedule. Risk compliance and continuous improvements offices have been set up in each region, headed by a superintendent, to deliver changes at regional level in a standard and consistent way. New units have been establishment to focus expertise more effectively in particular areas, such as organised crime, domestic and sexual violence, and human exploitation. Detective superintendents in the regions have been charged with delivering a co-ordinated and effective approach to crime. The policing plan for 2015, which has been laid before the Houses, sets out clearly the Garda objectives for this year. I encourage Deputies to look through it. Finally, the Deputy is familiar with the Government's programme of legislative reform, which includes a range of initiatives in this area.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I acknowledge that problems within the Garda organisation have been pinpointed. The difficulty, however, is that we still have not seen the necessary reforms implemented. The Minister did not indicate when she expects the police authority to be up and running. Will she clarify whether any disciplinary action was taken arising out of the Garda professional standards unit, GPSU, report into fixed-charge notices? Were any sanctions applied in respect of the Garda Inspectorate report? The latter represents a very serious body of work but there is a problem in that an internal Garda body is involved in the implementation steering group. As I pointed out to the Taoiseach earlier this week, a chief superintendent involved in that work is the subject of three separate ongoing investigations. That is very worrying. It is vital that there be independent oversight of the implementation of the Garda Inspectorate report. Will the Minister give a progress report on the 200 recommendations it contains and indicate how many meetings of the implementation steering group have taken place? Without independent oversight, we will not see much change.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Deputy refers to change and oversight. It is useful to consider just one example of change, namely, the reform of the fixed-charge penalty system, FCPS, cancellation process. I have appointed Judge Matthew Deery, a former President of the Circuit Court, to act as head of an independent oversight authority for the cancellation process. That role is in addition to the ongoing internal audit of the system. Judge Deery will be free to inspect at random any fixed-charge notice cancellation and report his findings on the operation of the system to the Minister. The practical arrangements for him to take up this role are being put in place at present. Three people will now be charged with making those decisions and the criteria are much sharper. That is evidence of real change. Any reasonable person considering this and other reforms would accept we are seeing real cultural and administrative change within the force.

I will shortly begin the process of advertising for applications for membership of the police authority and putting in place a shadow board. I expect the authority to be up and running in the course of this year.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Any reasonable person would see the Minister is not prepared to answer all my questions. Were any sanctions or disciplines imposed on people found to be out of step in the GPSU report? What was the outcome of the internal disciplinary proceedings against the three gardaí referred to in the O'Mahony report? The Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 3) Act 2015 is weak but at least there is something in it. When will that legislation be commenced and will it be done in its entirety? The Minister did not answer my question about the importance of ensuring there is some independent oversight of the steering group that was established to implement the recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate report. Finally, we wish things were better and had changed in the wake of the appointment of the new Commissioner but the reality is there are two Garda whistleblowers claiming that in the case of two internal investigations, the person against whom they made a complaint was kept informed about the investigation while the complainants were harassed. How in God's name is this different from what was going on before?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Taoiseach asked the Deputy for information when the Deputy raised this matter with him. If he has information, he should supply it. 

 

Mick Wallace:  This is a different matter, and the Gardai are very well aware of it, and have all the information they need. Likewise, the Taoiseach knew very well what I was talking about when I asked him back in January and again this week, but it suits him very well not to remember, given that he has continually chosen to ignore Garda malpractice. What chance Reform when neither the new Minister for Justice, the new Garda Commissioner, or the Taoiseach, want any change, in how we do policing? The Status Quo is flourishing - They seem to like things just the way they are...

 

Mick Wallace.

 

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Dáil Diary no 29. 1st April 2015

Nothing Changes – Taoiseach and Garda Commissioner Carry on as Usual…

Yesterday I had Leaders' Questions with the Taoiseach, and I asked him why he approved the promotion of a Superintendent to Chief Superintendent despite being told by a member of An Garda Síochána that the man in question was involved in Garda malpractice. Surprisingly, he didn’t answer the question. Again. After all, it’s ‘Question time’, not ‘Answer time’. It appears that Fine Gael, the party of law and order, are not very fussy about the type of law and order that they have. In most democratic countries, a leader might struggle to get away with this, but then, transparency and accountability remain just aspirations in Ireland, and remain far from a reality. Here are the exchanges from the Dáil yesterday-

Deputy Mick Wallace: On 28 January, I asked the Taoiseach to tell the House when he was first personally made aware of serious Garda malpractice in the Athlone area. Given that his memory is normally pretty good, I was surprised that he failed to recall it.

In 2012, a Garda went to see the Taoiseach in Castlebar and told him about serious malpractice by a certain Superintendent in the Athlone area. He told the Taoiseach, "If you don't do something about him, you will be reading about him in the papers". The Taoiseach expressed shock at that time about what this gentleman told him. However, later that same year the Taoiseach gave approval for the promotion of this Superintendent to Chief Superintendent. This same Chief Superintendent is now the subject of three different investigations.

That same Garda contacted the Taoiseach again in November 2014, which is why I was particularly surprised that he did not remember him in January. Even though the Garda highlighted more malpractice on the part of the same gentleman, he has since been moved to Phoenix Park to work in the implementation of the Garda Inspectorate report.

What hope is there for reform as long as the old hierarchy remains in place?

Surely the Taoiseach must realise that they are part of the problem, not the solution. It is more than a year since the Taoiseach got rid of the former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan. At this stage I am beginning to wonder why he bothered – the new Garda Commissioner is cut from the very same cloth, and we are not looking at much different.

We have been speaking to some new whistleblowers of late, some of whom are trying to raise issues regarding Gardaí involved in the drug trade. I will tell the Taoiseach what they are facing – Harassment, Bullying, Intimidation, Cover up, Denial and Delay. In one internal investigation, the Garda about whom complaints have been made, is being kept informed while those making the allegations are being harassed - all under the watch of the new Commissioner. The same internal investigation has been going on for 11 months – it appears as if they are trying to break the man. And I think they might.

Why would any Garda be a whistleblower, if it means being isolated and harassed for doing the right thing, while the person about whom he is complaining gets promoted?

Is the Taoiseach aware that since the Government did away with the Confidential Recipient, there has been no place for Garda whistleblowers to go, because GSOC is not geared to deal with it? What will the Taoiseach do about it?

The Taoiseach: On the previous occasion the Deputy raised the matter here, I sent him a note asking him to supply the details about which he was talking. He did not respond to that note. I reject his assertion in respect of the former Garda Commissioner. I reject his assertion in respect of the current Garda Commissioner. The Government has taken action to introduce the most radical changes to the country's policing system since the foundation of the State. As the Deputy knows, the Government has no function in the proposals to appoint people as chief superintendents, except to have them approved or endorsed by the Garda Commissioner.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Exactly.

The Taoiseach: The situation regarding the appointment of commissioners has changed. It is an independent process. In this case, applications were sought nationally and internationally. The establishment of the policing authority is being followed through by the Minister for Justice and Equality. I expect that to be legislated for and enacted by the middle of May. Also, with regard to the continuation of GSOC and what it will be entitled to do, the appointment of a chairperson of GSOC is under consideration by the Government. That appointment should be made very quickly. I do not accept what the Deputy says regarding bullying, harassment and the other issues he mentioned. I asked the Deputy for a note in respect of what he raised, but he chose not to respond. I would appreciate it if he would do so later.

Deputy Mick Wallace: That is a load of rubbish, and the Taoiseach knows it. He did not address the issues I raised. I never said the Taoiseach promoted him. I said he approved of it. Why would he approve the promotion of a Superintendent to Chief Superintendent after being made aware of the fact that he was involved in serious Garda malpractice?

Why in God's name would he do it?

Will the Taoiseach explain that?

He talks about the greatest reforms in the history of the State - what a load of baloney. He promised all kinds of reform last summer but it has been so minuscule, it is an embarrassment.

The Guerin report was released last May. The Government only established a Commission of Investigation nine months later. We probably will not see the full report of the Fennelly Commission until after the election. We were due to have the report of the Independent Review Mechanism last September, but still we have not received it.

The Garda authority was supposed to be up and running by December, and God knows when we will get a watered down version of it. The report of the Garda Inspectorate was not even debated in the House. The latest report on the Penalty Points was not debated in the House either. The Taoiseach talks about things changing, but I have details here of one Fine Gael backbencher who has three fixed charges against him. They were not terminated, but they were kept on a shelf, and the summonses were not served.

Will the Taoiseach not admit that bugger all has changed?

The Taoiseach has no appetite for change. He likes the fact that policing is still politicised in Ireland and he will keep it that way. The Garda Commissioner does not wish to change things, and neither does he.

The Taoiseach: I sent Deputy Wallace a note asking him for details about what he raised on the last occasion, but he chose not to answer it.

Deputy Mick Wallace: This man went to the Taoiseach in Castlebar and the Taoiseach ignored him as well.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy chose not to respond to the Minister for Justice and Equality when she invited him to Farmleigh to give his views and proposals in respect of the work that was taking place. The policing reforms include the establishment of the independent policing authority, the appointment of a chair designate for the new authority and the first ever international competition for the position of Garda Commissioner, which was run by the Public Appointments Service and involved the chair designate of the new authority. A similar open competition is currently under way for the positions of deputy commissioner of An Garda Síochána. There is also the provision of enhanced powers for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the passing of new legislation to protect whistleblowers and the reform and extension of freedom of information legislation. I expect that the legislation establishing the policing authority will be passed by the House by the end of May. These are the most far-reaching reforms in policing in this country since the foundation of the State.

Mick Wallace

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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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Dáil Diary 27- 30th March 2015

We Must Enshrine Neutrality in our Constitution...

Most Irish people are of the opinion that Ireland is a Neutral country. Sadly, this is not true. Consecutive Governments have continued to declare that we are neutral, but the reality is that we have a policy of neutrality but since it is not in legislation or the Constitution, the Government ignores it's own policy and proceeds to promote War rather than Peace, by allowing the US Military to use Shannon as a military air base. 

Last Friday I had the opportunity to introduce my own Bill on Neutrality, and I had 25 minutes in total, on what was a very lively debate involving several Deputies - here is the opening part of my speech -

 

I wish to begin by thanking Dr. Ed Horgan and Mr. John Lannon of Shannonwatch, who have been involved in a long-running campaign to have neutrality enshrined in the Constitution and to have Ireland promote peace rather than facilitate a war effort. The amount of time they have put into that campaign beggars belief. Both men have been doing something very positive for this country for a long period.

 

Since 1939, successive governments have continually declared that Ireland is a neutral state, subject to the rules and obligations applicable to such states under international law. In recent years the current Government has attempted to redefine neutrality in order to justify its entanglement in military alliances such as the NATO Partnership for Peace, PfP, and European Union battle groups under the Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP. However, the rules are clearly defined in Article 2 to The Hague Convention, which states that "Belligerents are forbidden to move troops or convoys of either munitions of war or supplies across the territory of a neutral Power." Since October 2001, successive governments have allowed over 2.5 million armed US-NATO troops and large quantities of war materials to pass through Shannon airport on their way to and from the Afghan and Iraq wars, in clear contravention of the customary international laws on neutrality.

 

Earlier this month, the Minister for Defence, Deputy Coveney, stated, "While Ireland is committed to a policy of military neutrality, we need to be clear that Ireland is not ideologically neutral. Political neutrality in international affairs has never been part of Ireland's foreign policy tradition". This statement came directly after the Minister reaffirmed the Government's commitment to Article 29.1 of the Constitution, which states, "Ireland affirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality." It is crystal clear that Article 29.1 of the Constitution states that Ireland is devoted to the ideal of peace, friendly co-operation, international justice and morality. It is also crystal clear that these are ideological and political concepts in and of themselves. The Minister holds that we are committed to the political concept of neutrality in one breath, while in the next he states that we are not, and never have been, "ideologically or politically neutral". There is only one type of neutrality covered by international laws on neutrality and that is military neutrality. The concepts of political and ideological neutrality simply do not apply.

 

The concept of ideological neutrality, while nonsensical, is a new phenomenon. It has only been referred to in the Dáil on three occasions in the context of the concept of neutrality as regards international warfare. It was first mentioned in passing by former Minister and Deputy, Pat Carey, in 2004 and then once by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Charles Flanagan, last year and again by the Minister for Defence, Deputy Coveney, this month. Never has this new concept been defined, yet the aforementioned Ministers, in their clamour to legitimise and justify our taking sides in international acts of aggression, both state that Ireland is not, and never has been, politically or ideologically neutral.

 

There is no concrete and clear commitment to neutrality in the Constitution. For far too long, this Government and others which preceded it have used this lack of clarity to lie to the Irish people and this House about where we stand. The Ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputies Coveney and Flanagan, have even gone so far as to invent an entirely new category of neutrality that has no place, meaning or purchase, anywhere in international law. This behaviour is entirely consistent with the lie that made Ireland a belligerent in the Iraq war in 2003, while still claiming the status of a neutral country. In March 2003, Bertie Ahern, the then Head of Government, lied to this House and the Irish people, when he argued that facilitating the use of Shannon for the then illegal invasion of Iraq was "not of sufficient degree or substance to constitute participating in the war". He also said that "The provision of facilities does not make Ireland a member of a military coalition". These statements, and many more that were made on 20 March 2003, were outright lies. On reading the transcript of the argument put forward by the then Taoiseach, one would not know whether to laugh or cry. It is a heady mixture of false prophecies-----

 

Acting Chairman (Deputy Derek Keating): I apologise for intervening but I am obliged to inform the Deputy that he cannot state that the comments in question were lies.

 

Deputy Mick Wallace:That is fine. I will say instead that the then Taoiseach was being economical with the truth. So, he engaged in fear-mongering, provided misinformation and was economical with the truth.

 

The statements to which I refer were untrue because at base they rode roughshod over a series of very straightforward laws by which Ireland is bound. According to customary international law - namely, the Hague Convention on Respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land of 1907 - a power that claims to be neutral is forbidden to allow belligerents "to move troops or convoys of either munitions of war or supplies across the territory of a neutral Power". The law is unequivocal. We were not, as former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern claimed, non-participants in the Iraq war - and we are not today - or militarily neutral. We are belligerents and, as long as Shannon remains a forward military base for the US war machine, we will remain belligerents in an endless and senseless war that has led to deaths of over 1 million civilians and served solely to line the pockets of the arms industry, which has developed into one of the most powerful and influential entities in the world. The Hague Convention on 1907 is customary international law, and customary international laws are unusually strong, binding, and cannot be abrogated or disobeyed by states, regardless of whether or not they have ratified them.

 

The motion presented to the House in 2003 by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern stated:

That Dáil Éireann, noting the imminence of military action by a United States led coalition against Iraq:

 

- reaffirms Ireland's commitment to the United Nations as the guarantor of collective global security and as the appropriate forum for the resolution of disputes threatening international peace and security ...

This completely ignores the fact that the UN Secretary General had stated that the Iraq war was contrary to the UN Charter. The motion to which I refer also stated that Dáil Éireann "condemns the continued refusal of the Government of Iraq over a period of 12 years to comply with its obligation to disarm as imposed by numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, most recently in Resolution 1441". In 2003, the US wanted Iraq to surrender its weapons of mass destruction but as matters turned out Iraq did not have any such weapons. History has borne that out. The Dáil motion of 2003 was, therefore, based on a number of false premises. The motion in question also went on to state that Dáil Éireann "expresses its earnest hope that military action, should it occur, will be of short duration and that loss of life and destruction will be kept to a minimum". This was an echo of what happened at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, when everyone was informed that the conflict would be over by Christmas. The motion of March 2003 also states that Dáil Éireann "declares its commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq". How is it possible to invade and destroy a country while at the same time respecting its sovereignty and independence? It is not possible.

 It beggars belief that the motion to which I refer passed muster on the day it was debated. The motion goes on to say that Dáil Éireann "welcomes the arrangements put in place by the Government to ensure that Ireland will be able to contribute rapidly to the humanitarian effort in Iraq". As it turned out, Ireland played no part in the humanitarian relief effort in Iraq. The motion further stated that Dáil Éireann "recalls the long-standing arrangements for the overflight and landing in Ireland of US military and civilian aircraft" but it did not indicate that up until 1999, any US troops who passed through Shannon were either going on holiday or travelling to air bases in Germany.

 

However, all of that changed with the invasion of Kosovo, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

 

The 1907 Hague convention is customary international law. Such laws are unusually strong and binding and cannot be abrogated or disobeyed by states regardless of whether they have ratified them. Although Ireland has not ratified the convention, two weeks after the then Taoiseach was deceptive to the House in March 2003, a High Court judgment in Horgan v. An Taoiseach & Ors. stated that Ireland was in breach of Hague Convention V by allowing US troops to use Shannon Airport on their way to and from the war in Iraq. The ruling from Mr. Justice Kearns read: "The court is prepared to hold therefore that there is an identifiable rule of customary law in relation to the status of neutrality whereunder a neutral state may not permit the movement of large numbers of troops or munitions of one belligerent State through its territory en route to a theatre of war with another." This judgment effectively declared that Ireland, as a self-declared neutral state, was - it still is - in breach of its international law obligations.

 

Since the judgment, Ministers have argued that Irish neutrality is defined either as military neutrality or non-belligerence and that Ireland is not politically neutral. Based on the work of experts in the field, these arguments do not stand up. International law experts Professor L. F. L. Oppenheim and Sir Hersch Lauterpacht stated: "[A]ll States which do not expressly declare the contrary by word or action are supposed to be neutral, and the rights and duties arising from neutrality come into existence, and remain in existence, through the mere fact of a State taking up an attitude of impartiality, in not being drawn into the war by the belligerents." According to another expert, Professor Michael Bothe, neutrality is defined in international law as the status of a state that is not participating in an armed conflict between other states and "is incompatible with this conflict-restraining function of neutrality that states should try to evade their duties flowing from their neutral status by styling themselves non-belligerents".

 

Mr. Justice Kearns ruled that he was not going to act to address this breach of international law on neutrality on the arguably dubious grounds of the separation of powers between the Executive and the Judiciary. The Government was never held to account for misleading the Dáil and the people.

 

On the matter of the Lisbon treaty, which has been incorporated into Irish law, the Government in June 2009 attempted to clarify its meaning by stating: "The Lisbon Treaty does not affect or prejudice Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality." However, the concept of military neutrality is not defined in legislation and the current interpretation is in contravention of the legal concept of neutrality as outlined in the Hague convention.

 

Ireland does not have a policy of neutrality anymore. Active neutrality embodies a commitment to the legal definition of neutrality as described by Hague Convention V and to the following values and foreign policy goals - peace promotion, non-aggression, the primacy of the UN and the confinement of state military activity to UN peacekeeping, not being involved in wars, impartiality and maintaining Ireland's independence, identity and independent foreign policy decision making. These differ from the concept of military neutrality that has allowed us to facilitate the movement of munitions and millions of armed troops who are engaged in invasion and occupation through Shannon Airport. What is most infuriating is that, since Mr. Justice Kearns ruled that the Government was in clear breach of international laws on neutrality, more than 2 million additional US troops and vast quantities of arms and munitions have passed through Shannon Airport. The Governments since 2003 have consistently been acting in breach of the High Court finding while illegitimately claiming military neutrality.

 

The aim of the Bill is to put an end to this dishonesty and illegality by strengthening the position on neutrality in the Constitution while eradicating the ambiguity that has thus far allowed the Government and courts to misrepresent Ireland's place and standing in international relations. The Bill's function is to take back the powers that have been abused by successive Governments and the courts since 2003, and for the people of Ireland to take back from the Government the power to allow the US the use of Shannon Airport as a military air base and the unfettered use of our airspace for military aeroplanes on the way to a warfront and to send Irish people to unjustified wars. We can only do this by enshrining neutrality in our Constitution.

 

Trying to get an honest debate and clarity from the Government has been a difficult fight for the years we have been in the Dáil. There is nothing but confusion. Four Departments are involved. They kick responsibility from one to the other. As the dogs in the street know and, when published, a recent court judgment in Ennis will bear out, heavy armaments are passing through Shannon Airport on the way to warfronts where more than 1 million innocent people have died. We have facilitated that and should be ashamed.

 Mick Wallace.

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