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Tánaiste Micheál Martin and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith Oireachtas TV
Leaders' Questions

Tánaiste and PBP accuse each other of 'lies' during Dáil clash over Triple Lock

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith questioned the Tánaiste during Leaders’ Questions over his intentions around removing the triple lock mechanism.

LAST UPDATE | 2 May

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has said it is a “monstrous lie” to suggest the removal of the triple lock for Irish military involvement in operations abroad would result in “young Irish people fighting in wars”. 

Martin was responding to People Before People TD Bríd Smith during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil after she questioned whether he wants young Irish people to be sent out to fight wars. 

Her question came after the Tánaiste on Tuesday got Government approval to draft legislation to get rid of the triple lock.

The bill will change how Ireland deploys the Defence Forces on peacekeeping missions overseas and will essentially remove the veto power of UN Security Council members over Ireland’s overseas engagements.

The Tánaiste intends to bring the legislation to Cabinet in June if he receives sign-off today.

The Tánaiste announced his intentions to get rid of the triple lock late last year, in a move that took many by surprise. 

The “triple lock” is a mechanism that sets out the conditions under which more than 12 Irish troops may participate in overseas peace support operations.

For troops to take part, the operation must be mandated by the United Nations; it must be approved by the Government; and it must be approved by Dáil Éireann.

  • You can read a full Explainer on the triple lock here.

During Leaders’ Questions today, Smith questioned why Martin is intending to lift the triple lock. 

“Do you want the sons and daughters of Irish, mostly working class, people to be sent out to fight wars on behalf of the new colonial powers that are dominating the world now?” Smith asked. 

“What exactly do you need to lift the triple lock for? Don’t tell me it’s to pick up people who are stranded in Kabul or Somalia and can’t get out because that’s not the case,” she said. 

Responding to Smith, Martin said he was 12 years old when the referendum for Ireland to join the EU passed. 

“What’s interesting about that debate and every other debate about the European Union since then … people from your side of the House predicted conscription, membership of NATO, NATO tanks on O’Connell Street,” he said. 

At this point, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy interrupted Martin said accused him of “telling lies”. 

“We did not predict troops on O’Connell Street, we did not predict conscription that is a lie,” Murphy said. 

Martin said the triple lock has “nothing to do with military neutrality”, but that it has “everything to do with incapacity and the paralysis on the [UN] Security Council around peacekeeping missions”. 

Smith accused the Tánaiste of “really meaning” that Ireland “wants to engage in military activity” with NATO and the European Union. 

“What you really mean is, everything changed with the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Putin and we are now facing a new splintered, new style colonial world where wars are on the brink, and we want to be able to engage with other countries, with possibly NATO eventually, but definitely with the European Union … we want to engage in military activity with them,” Smith said. 

The Tánaiste said it is a “monstrous lie and assertion to suggest that removing the triple lock will facilitate or would be a factor or would result in young Irish people fighting in wars”.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Smith had said the the removal of the triple lock “really endangers our neutrality and it will inevitably lead to Ireland’s involvement in wars”.

Defence Forces deployment

As it stands, the current triple lock system effectively allows UN Security Council members to veto deployment of Ireland’s Defence Forces. 

However, no new peacekeeping mission has been approved by the UN Security Council in a decade.

The five permanent members of the Council – China, France, Russia, UK, USA each have a veto.

It is understood the Tánaiste believes there is a growing need to be able to dispatch Irish troops quickly with the flexibility to urgently respond to any crisis anywhere.

One example of this is in instances where Irish citizens require assistance abroad. In recent years there has been an increase in demand for the Irish Defence Forces to assist with evacuation operations.

In order to do this and allow Irish troops to be sent overseas via a national decision-making process, legislative change is required. 

It is understood any legislative proposals would remain fully consistent with the principles of the UN Charter and international law.

With reporting by Jane Matthews

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