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Dublin: 19 °C Wednesday 5 August, 2020
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Will Ireland have to provide military assistance to France?

France is using The Lisbon treaty’s equivalent of Nato’s ‘an attack on one is an attack on all’ clause.

7/9/2009. Anti Lisbon Treaty Campaigns People Before Profit Alliance protest outside the Dáil back in September 2009 Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

IRELAND’S POLICY OF military neutrality was one of the biggest talking points of the Lisbon treaty referendum back in 2008 (and then again in 2009 when the public went to the polls for a second time).

This revolved around the formation of a common security and defence policy, as set out in Article 42, with talk of what appeared to be a common European Union military jarring with the people’s usual expectation of our Defence Forces.

This week, Article 42 was invoked for the first time, namely section 7:

If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

French president Francois Hollande initiated this on Monday following last week’s terror attacks in Paris, and it received the unanimous backing of EU defence ministers – including Simon Coveney – yesterday.

France Paris Attacks French police in Paris last night. Source: Associated Press

The official EU request said that France is asking its European partners for their bilateral support “in the fight against Daesh (Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria”, but also “increased participation in other theatres”.

Article 42.7 is similar to, but not as powerful as, Nato’s Article 5, which means an attack on one nation is an attack on all, and was invoked by the United States following 9/11.

While Ireland has supported France’s call for help, this doesn’t mean Defence Forces troops will be on the ground in Syria fighting against Islamic State.

This is because of an important caveat to Article 29:

This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.

That means Ireland’s policy of neutrality will be respected, but does that mean we can sit back and do nothing?

Minister Simon Coveney told RTÉ’s Six One last night that a number of options are available that will suit Ireland’s neutrality.

Horse meat found in beef products Source: PA WIRE

He said this is likely to consist of two main areas.

  • Firstly, improvements in the sharing of data and intelligence, on top of arrangements already in place. This will allow better tracking of those moving around the EU.
  • Secondly, the Minister noted that France has very significant peacekeeping commitments in Africa. The Irish Defence Forces could take more of a role in this to free up French troops.

More details will be finalised in the days to come. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Paris would now have talks with individual EU nations to see what help they could offer.

“I felt a lot of emotion from my colleagues” over the Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group which left 129 people dead, Le Drian said, adding that many of his counterparts had addressed him personally in French to pay their respects.

Paris Terror Attack Floral tributes and candles left at the La Belle Equipe bar in Paris. Source: PA WIRE

Britain swiftly said it had offered bilateral aid and would “stand ready to consider any French requests”.

In a further show of solidarity, the EU signalled leniency on its tough budget rules after France warned it would not meet its deficit obligations as it steps up security following the attacks.

“The rules of the stability pact do not stop member states from defining their priorities. We understand that the priority is security,” EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told a news conference.

“It is in that spirit that we are in discussions with the French government.”

Additional reporting by AFP

Read: Two suspects killed, seven people in custody after Paris morning raid >

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Nicky Ryan

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