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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# exchanging fire
PBP writes to Ceann Comhairle as Taoiseach defends 'Puppets for Putin' remark
The Taoiseach was asked to explain ‘what was going on’ when NATO visited Cork

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN labelled People Before Profit TDs “puppets of Putin’s regime” after he was repeatedly questioned in the Dáil yesterday on NATO’s recent presence in Cork. 

Today, the Taoiseach refused to withdraw the comments when TD Paul Murphy raised a point of order calling on him to do so. 

Martin said he would retain the right to “speak freely”, and stated that opposition TDs frequently accuse him of being a “puppet of NATO.” 

Murphy in turn said that it was “chilling” for the Taoiseach to accuse opposition TDs of being agents of a foreign power because they don’t “going along” with an “agenda of militarisation.”

The TD has since written to the Ceann Comhairle to request that he calls upon Martin to withdraw his comments, branding them “scandalous” and “against the rules of the Dáil.”

Yesterday, Cork TD Mick Barry sought a response from the Taoiseach on the matter during a Dail Q&A session on the Ukraine war. 

Barry read out a section of The Journal’s article on NATO assessors evaluating the interoperability of Irish Army troops in Kilworth. 

He asked the Taoiseach to explain “what was going on here” as Ireland is “not politically neutral but is militarily neutral.” 

“I do not think they were talking politics up there in Kilworth,” Barry added. 

People Before Profit TD’s Paul Murphy and Richard Boyd Barrett joined their colleague’s calls for an explanation as to the purpose of NATO’s presence in Cork. 

Murphy stated: “The Taoiseach knows that we are completely opposed to Ireland’s participation in the so-called military assistance mission of the EU to train the Ukrainian army. Training one side in a military conflict is a breach of military neutrality. This is part of a drive to integrate Ireland into a process of European militarisation and align Ireland with NATO.”

He further said that the Taoiseach had said the Irish Defence Forces will be involved in de-mining training, but that he had “failed to guarantee” that they would be involved in “nothing else.” 

“Those assessors were headed up by a military commander of the US Navy,” Boyd Barrett said, adding that it is clear the government is “disregarding this country’s neutrality.” 

Micheál Martin told the PBP TDs that they were “anti-Ukraine.” 

“This was an unprovoked war by Russia on Ukraine that nobody wanted.  Many countries that are members of NATO spoke to Putin and asked him to stop and not to do it, including President Macron and Chancellor Scholz,” he stated. 

After repeated interruptions from opposition TDs calling on Martin to “stop bluffing and answer the question”, Martin said that the was not in Kilworth “eavesdropping”, but that when he visited Lebanon alongside theDefence Forces they were participating in a peacekeeping mission with the Polish Army.” 

Addressing the Kilworth training evaluation, the Taoiseach said: “‘I presume that any work with other troops is interoperability in respect of peace0keeping missions that the Irish Army is engaged in. The Deputy is asserting a complete untruth. ”

He went on to label the TD’s questioning him “Puppets for Putin’s regime”, arguing that “every time there is a question on Ukraine, and especially to do with refugees and humanitarian issues, the three Deputies opposite bring it back to NATO and the Russian argument.” 

“It is the same argument used by Russia last week when it named a lot of Irish politicians on their list,” he added. 

Fianna Fail TD Cathal Crowe echoed the Taoiseach and said, “the Deputies are on Putin’s Christmas card list: we are just on the blacklist.”

After several interruptions the Cheann Comhairle called for a “smidgeon of respect” and moved the debate along. 

Kilworth

Last week, The Journal reported that NATO assessors were present in Kilworth to “assess the basic capabilities of Irish soldiers and their use of artillery fire support in complex missions with foreign forces.”

The US Navy Commander Sam Mason, who now works for the Netherlands as part of NATO, explained that he was in North Cork with a team of international evaluators “to conduct a NATO evaluation level one.” 

“This is the culmination of a series that units throughout Europe will go through in order to ensure that they are interoperable with other NATO units. And it’s guided by a program called the Operational Capabilities Concept evaluation feedback program. It’s a standardisation across NATO, essentially.” he explained. 

The Irish representative on the OCC team, Commandant Daire Roche, explained Ireland’s military connections with NATO.  

“It’s part of a program that is for partner nations within NATO. And Ireland is a partner, nation and a member of a program called Partnership for Peace, which is known as PFP.

“Ireland joined PFP in 1999, along with a number of other countries. And at the moment, I think there’s over 50 nations involved,” he said. 

- With reporting by Niall O’Connor

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