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Govt says referendum enshrining neutrality in Constitution 'not appropriate' as SF motion defeated

Micheál Martin has said that there is no question of Ireland’s neutrality policy being dismantled.

SINN FÉIN’S MOTION on neutrality has been defeated in the Dáil this evening by 73 votes to 52. 

The counter-motion tabled by the government stated that holding a referendum to enshrine neutrality in the Constitution is “not appropriate’.

It went on to state that “as a highly globalised country, Ireland cannot rely on our geographic isolation for our security”.

Sinn Féin criticised the government for proposing the abolishment of the triple-lock mechanism.

The motion called on the government to take a range of actions in relation to Ireland’s policy of military neutrality, including holding a Citizen’s Assembly to propose wording to enshrine neutrality in the Constitution.

It also called for a referendum on any changes to the triple lock.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin announced this week that the government plans to bring forward legislation to scrap the triple-lock for Irish military involvement in operations abroad.

The “triple lock” is a mechanism whereby troops can only be deployed by Ireland if there is a United Nations mandate, clearance from the Government and a vote in the Dáil.

The government maintained that the Sinn Féin motion equates amendments to the triple lock mechanism with a change to Ireland’s long standing policy of military neutrality – which the government states it has no intention to alter.

Speaking in the Dáil during a debate this week, Martin said the ‘triple lock’ system hands the five permanent members of the Security Council a veto over our national sovereign decision to deploy troops to peacekeeping missions as Ireland sees fit.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Matt Carthy said he wanted the Tánaiste to state what overseas mission or missions they are currently prevented from sending troops to that they want to send them to.

“Do they accept the Irish people have a right to know? he asked. 

The government’s countermotion, approved by the Dáil today, states that any legislative amendments to the triple lock “will be fully consistent with the policy of military neutrality and will continue to safeguard the essential link with international law and the UN Charter, in a manner which will allow us to respond to crisis situations with more agility”.

Sinn Féin hit out at Fianna Fáil, stating that the party was previously against getting rid of the triple lock while in opposition. 

Carthy said:

“Our neutrality is not just our greatest protection and defence; it is also our greatest tool in being able to play a positive and constructive role in the world.  

“Being neutral does not mean that we are better than anybody else but it means we are best-placed to do particular things, and we have had a proud record of doing those things.  The triple lock underpins that.  

“Regardless of whatever circumstances have changed, one circumstance has not changed.  When Micheál Martin said the triple lock was a core component of Irish neutrality, he was right!”

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