THE DÁIL HAS voted to approve Ireland’s participation in Pesco – the EU’s permanent structured cooperation arrangement.
The motion was passed by 75 votes to 42. Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backed the motion.
TDs from numerous political parties recently raised concerns about the government trying to “ram” through a vote on Ireland joining the defence pact.
The plan raised concerns here that it could undermine Ireland’s policy of neutrality.
Some argue Pesco is the first step towards an EU army, with its proposals including inclusion in the European command centre, a network of logistic hubs across Europe and a creation of a European crisis response centre, as well as the joint training of military officers.
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A heated debated on the issue kicked off earlier this week with news the government had planned a vote on the issue this week.
The government argued it must sign-up to the deal before an EU Council meeting of defence ministers taking place on 11 December.
However, parties such as Labour argued that this was not necessary and asked for the vote to be pushed back to 2018 so as to allow sufficient time to have a public debate on the issue and for the Oireachtas Defence Committee to have the opportunity to hear submissions from independent experts.
Wexford TD Mick Wallace said he was astonished at the video Europe is using to promote Pesco and was even more shocked that a small country like Ireland would consider signing up to it.
Meanwhile Solidarity-PBP member Richard Boyd Barrett accused the government of pulling a “fast one” with the vote today.
He said his party are considering taking a constitutional challenge against the government plan.
He said the government’s response to his criticisms were “the most cynical rubbish” he had ever heard. The Dun Laoghaire TD said this was exactly the move the Irish people were afraid of when they voted down the Lisbon Treaty the first time around.
He pointed to the European Commission’s own fact sheet on Pesco which states the difference between Pesco and other forms of cooperation is the “binding nature” of the commitments undertaken by participating member states.
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the government’s position stating that he wants Ireland to be involved in Pesco.
He said it is time that Europe stops relying on the US for its defence.
My view is that a Europe that is worth building is a Europe that is worth defending. For a very long time, all of Europe has relied on the United States to provide for its defence. There are real threats to European security and, over time, rather than relying on the United States to defend Europe and pay for European defence, Europe should provide and pay for its own defence and not be dependent on the United States in the way it has been since 1945.
That is what Pesco and European security and defence co-operation are all about. It is Europe starting to take responsibility for and control over its own defence, not relying on the United States in the way it has done until now.
Many TDs said that in years to come, today’s vote will be seen as Ireland’s first step towards the country’s role in a European defence strategy.