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triple lock

Micheál Martin announces plan to get rid of triple lock which limits Irish military operations overseas

Martin said legislative proposals to govern the future overseas deployments of Irish soldiers is being prepared.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 22nd 2023, 4:38 PM

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has announced that government plans to bring forward legislation to get rid of 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.

Speaking in the Dáil during a debate on the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy, which was hosted by government, 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.

“Of course, as we saw over the course of the Forum, there is no single consensus over how to proceed with the Triple Lock. But we saw ample evidence of other options on how to allow agility and responsiveness while ensuring our actions comply with the highest standards of international law.

“It would therefore make sense, I believe, to amend our existing legislation in a manner which would allow us to respond to crisis situations with more agility, and where in making these important decisions, we are not surrendering our sovereignty.

Martin said: 

I have therefore instructed officials in the Department of Defence to prepare legislative proposals without delay that would govern the future overseas deployments of our Defence Forces.

He added that this could allow Ireland to despatch Defence Forces personnel to multilateral missions overseas where these are organised by a regional organisation such as the European Union or African Union, or where the host country is requesting such support from the international community.

“While these proposals may not necessarily always include a role for the UN Security Council, they will of course remain fully consistent with the principles of the UN Charter and international law.

“By making this change in the future, we would be removing the veto power of Security Council members over Ireland’s engagement, while safeguarding the essential link with international law and good governance,” he said.

He said this was the first time he had gotten the chance to address the House “in detail on the outcome of the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy since it took place in June this year.”

He was critical about the role of the UN:

“It is my clear view that we cannot ignore the systemic challenges facing the UN Security Council. That is most evident in how difficult it is to agree or renew UN peacekeeping mandates, which we saw at first hand while on the Council in 2021 and 2022. It is striking, for instance, that not a single new peacekeeping mission has been authorised by the Security Council since 2014.”

“Let’s be clear that many crises that the Council deals with never get near the stage of discussion on a peacekeeping mission or even on a comprehensive peacebuilding plan. Look at Ukraine – for reasons that we all know, the Council has not even issued a statement on the issue, never mind agreed on a Resolution,” he added. 

He noted that “it took almost 6 weeks after the attack by Hamas in Israel and the terrible loss of life in Gaza for the Council to agree on a Resolution calling for humanitarian pauses.”

“The implications of this for Ireland and our current policy is simply something we have to take seriously. We cannot just revert to sound bites. We have to be honest about the fact that in respect of many of the worst crises internationally, where rapid, impartial and decisive international action is desperately needed, the Council has not been able to act.”

Martin, who is also the Defence Minister, has previously defended the forum that was held on security, however, opposition TDs labelled it “rigged” and said they had been excluded from the debate.

Reaction

Upon the announcement that legislative proposals were being prepared, Sinn Féin’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Matt Carthy asked the Tánaiste what mission he would have wanted Irish Defence Forces to participate in that were prevented by the triple lock.

Until the minister can give an outline as to what the impact would be on Ireland’s reputation, Carthy said no further steps should be taken. 

He said what the Tánaiste has announced today is a fundamental shift in Ireland’s foreign policy that will “radically undermine Irish neutrality” and that any policy the Government brings forward related to this should be put to the Irish people to vote on.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy asked if the Consultative Forum was designed to avoid an outcome that the Government would not like. 

“The Government was terrified that if it put neutrality to a Citizens Assembly, it would get the wrong answer. It would get an answer of the people saying we support neutrality, and neutrality should be in the Constitution,” Murphy said. 

“So what this sham forum was designed to do, was to manufacture an apparent consensus towards undermining Irish neutrality or further undermining Irish neutrality by moving us closer and closer to NATO,” he added.

Murphy then quoted President Micheal D. Higgins who said in relation to the Consultative Forum in June that this government was “playing with fire in a dangerous drift towards NATO”.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly told the Dáil that the consultative forum was dubbed as the start of the conversation on neutrality and Martin has now ended that conversation. 

“Shame on you,” she said, adding “shame” on any backbenchers that support the move. 

Connolly said those that opposed the policy change have been ostracised and labelled as people that are not rational.

She said Martin should consider his position given the announcement he made today. 

Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan said that Consultative Forum was “not a devious and covert mechanism to try to jettison Ireland’s military neutrality”.

“I think we need to be mature enough to recognise that simply because we’re discussing an issue it doesn’t mean that we are giving into that issue, or that we’re supporting the issue.

“We have to be mature enough and brave enough and grown up enough to recognise there are many complicated issues in international foreign policy and security policy that we need to discuss. By discussing them we are not assenting to them,” he said.

With reporting from Jane Matthews.

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