Wednesday, 13 October 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): I outlined the various reasons we might join Part nership for Peace, setting out pertinent and relevant questions relating thereto. I was focusing on the readiness of Ireland to contribute to peacekeeping and humanitarian operations generally under the various regional organisations and, of course, at all times UN mandated.
Ireland is a confident nation, proud of its heritage and keen to co-operate to help alleviate the problems of the international community. Our approach to international affairs has been built on international co-operation and the search for stability. Partnership for Peace is compatible with that strategy. We should not opt out of our traditional vocation of international engagement in co-operative efforts to solve the problems of the international community. In particular, we should be aware of inhibiting our Defence Forces from playing a full role in peacekeeping under changing conditions. We neither need nor wish to join military alliances, but we do need to co-operate actively with the principal regional organisations involved to maintain peace and security in Europe. We will do so in keeping with our distinctive peacekeeping traditions.
A number of relevant questions have frequently troubled people about Partnership for Peace, not unreasonably. Some questions are answered but still leave further questions in the minds of people. One question that arises is whether there is an institutional link between the Partnership for Peace and the European Union. The answer to that is no. But it is a reality, explained by the Government on a number of occasions, that any substantial Petersberg operation initiated at the request of the EU may have to depend on NATO's infrastructural resources. The EU is not a military organisation. The Western European Union is largely dependent on NATO for such peacekeeping necessities as airlift, communications and other infrastructural support. PfP is a point of contact with NATO for other neutral States as Austria, Finland and Sweden have demonstrated. All three EU neutral states, and Switzerland, have become actively involved in PfP's planning and review process for the Petersberg Tasks.
Another frequently asked question is, “does PfP participation entail acceptance of nuclear deterrence?” Again the answer is no. Nuclear deterrence arises only for the members of NATO. Sweden, which is a co-sponsor with Ireland of the important United Nations nuclear disarmament initiative which I launched last year, is an enthusiastic participant in PfP. Participation in PfP will not limit our ability to speak out in favour of nuclear disarmament.
Other fundamental misunderstandings have persisted regarding PfP. It is not true that participation in PfP would adversely affect Ireland's involvement in United Nations peacekeeping. It is not an issue of either/or. PfP plays an important role in enabling participating states to develop capacities, training and inter-operability for UN peacekeeping. It is not true that participation in PfP would oblige Ireland to engage in peace  enforcement operations. Irish involvement in any peacekeeping or peace enforcement operation is voluntary, is subject to Dáil decision and requires a UN Security Council mandate. Participation in PfP does not alter this situation.
It is not true that Ireland would be obliged to participate in exercises. Any participation in PfP exercises would be entirely voluntary and at our discretion. In any event, we have served alongside NATO countries in UN peacekeeping missions for over 40 years and I see nothing inappropriate in training with such countries for peacekeeping purposes.
Ireland's presentation document is clear in its focus and self-explanatory in its content. In accepting the invitation to participate in PfP, Ireland is solemnly restating its commitment to the development of a just and peaceful international society based on the rule of law, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the peaceful settlement of disputes. PfP and the co-operative values which underlie the partnership are compatible with these commitments and objectives. The presentation document sets out Ireland's policy of military neutrality. Ireland does not intend to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Ireland's military neutrality is not frozen in time and isolated from the evolving realities of the new Europe. We should not allow misplaced fears to obstruct our involvement in co-operation for peacekeeping.
Our decision to participate in PfP is in full accordance with the policy of military neutrality which has always been pursued in tandem with full and active support for collective security based on international law.
Mr. Andrews: Ireland shares the values set out in the PfP Framework Document, including protection and promotion of fundamental freedoms and human rights, and safeguarding of freedom, justice and peace through democracy.
Mr. Andrews: The Deputy has done everything to misrepresent this at every opportunity. He misled the debate in a very unfortunate and irresponsible fashion. In the ordinary way I would be prepared to give way but not in this instance.
Mr. Andrews: In joining PfP, Ireland, in common with the other PfP nations, reaffirms its commitment to fulfil in good faith the obligations of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Equally, Ireland reaffirms its commitment to the Helsinki Final Act and all subsequent documents of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe – OSCE.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Higgins, it is not a point of order to comment on the content of the Minister's speech. Provided the speaker is prepared to give way, but the speaker has expressed a wish to continue without giving way. I am calling on the Minister and I would ask Deputy Higgins to resume his seat, please.
Mr. Andrews: The presentation document makes clear that participation in PfP will in no sense inhibit our full commitment to disarmament and arms control. In joining PfP, Ireland reaffirms its commitments and obligations in this area.
Mr. Andrews: Our presentation document takes full account of the fact that in May 1997 the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council comes into being as the political framework for PfP. The Taoiseach publicly welcomed this development as long ago as 24 May 1997 – a fact which critics of the Government's approach seem to have forgotten. The EAPC is a flexible and voluntary forum, involving all PfP nations, for consultations and co-operation on political and security related matters of common concern, including regional issues, arms control, peacekeeping, civil emergency planning and scientific and environmental issues.
I welcome the intention of the EAPC to examine ways in which it might support global humanitarian action against mines. I also welcome the initiative taken by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council earlier this year to examine how it might contribute to controlling the transfer of small arms, recognising the high number of innocent civilian casualties caused by the use of mines and small arms.
The presentation document makes clear that the central focus of our participation in PfP is co-operation for peacekeeping. Based on our experience, Ireland is prepared to participate in and contribute to co-operation in the PfP framework in such areas as inter-operability, planning for peacekeeping and peace support, communications, command and control, operational procedures, logistics and training. We have also followed with interest PfP's focus on civil-military co-operation in peacekeeping and on the humanitarian aspects of peacekeeping.
In the context of humanitarian operations it is fair to say Irish Defence Forces personnel have been actively involved in a very brave, generous and decent manner in humanitarian assistance. They provide assistance to the civil authorities in response to natural or other disasters. In the context of their international peacekeeping role, Irish peacekeeping contingents have engaged in humanitarian efforts aimed at assisting local communities to develop a self-help philosophy. Irish Defence Forces personnel have served on a voluntary basis with UNHCR and Irish aid agencies on several continents. As a former Minister for Defence, I salute the great contributions made by members of our Defence Forces in Honduras, Africa, East Timor, Somalia, South Lebanon and the many other areas which readily come to mind. In the early 1990s members of our Defence Forces assisted in relief operations in Russia. In the light of this accumulated experience, we are interested in the development of co-operation and the exchange of experience and expertise in the area of humanitarian operations. We have many insights and skills to share in the humanitarian area.
How can Ireland contribute to Partnership for Peace? PfP does not involve any change to the current situation whereby a UN mandate and Dáil approval are required for participation in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations.  The presentation document makes clear that the following assets could be made available for PfP activities subject to national decisions in each case. Defence Forces assets for training, education and exercise purposes could include an infantry company group, leading to an infantry battalion group, battalion staff elements and specialist detachments, for example engineers, logisticians and exchange personnel. Facilities for peacekeeping co-operation in the PfP context could include the UN training school at the Curragh which I established as Minister for Defence, language laboratory resources with their associated infrastructure and a limited training area.
As participants in PfP, we will begin to consider participation in PfP activities for the two year period 2000-01, based on the approach set out in our presentation document. The Department of Foreign Affairs will be the primary point of contact with the NATO secretariat, in co-operation with the Department of Defence. In due course we will arrange to take up office accommodation alongside all of the other PfP nations in the PfP wing adjacent to NATO headquarters in Brussels. For the purposes of representation at the periodic meetings of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, I envisage that we will accredit our ambassador to Belgium for this purpose. The other neutral PfP states have made such arrangements. It is also envisaged that Ireland will be represented at the PfP co-ordination cell at Mons, where we already maintain a military liaison officer for SFOR and KFOR. These developments will have administrative and cost implications which will be matters for the Foreign Affairs and Defence Votes. They are currently under discussion, but contrary to the scare stories about costs which have been put about in recent weeks, they will be modest, balanced and proportionate to our involvement.
Mr. Andrews: They are currently under discussion, but contrary to the scare stories about costs which have been put about in recent weeks, they will be modest, balanced and proportionate to our involvement.
This motion is the culmination of a process of debate and analysis which I have actively encouraged since becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have encouraged and made myself available for debate in this House. I have set out my views on PfP in the media, in newspapers and on radio and television. I have encouraged discussion in my party and in the Government. I have addressed the issue on numerous occasions in the House and elsewhere.
Mr. Andrews: I did not hear what the Deputy is seeking. I will sit down. It is normal for me to be good mannered and civil and I am not going  to run in the face of that tradition after 35 years in the House.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): I thank the Minister for giving way. Can he explain to us and the Irish people why the Fianna Fáil manifesto which was put before the people and on which the party was voted into Government says: “We oppose Irish participation in NATO itself and in NATO led organisations such as Partnership for Peace”? Two years later the Minister is in the Dáil saying the country must join Partnership for Peace. Two years ago the Taoiseach also said a referendum at least would be necessary on the issue, while the Minister is now saying ‘no' to a referendum. Can he explain that basic contradiction to the Irish people?
Mr. Andrews: I will not try to explain it to the Irish people, but I will try to explain it to the Deputy. If the Deputy read out the following sentence he might get an answer to his question. Does Deputy Gormley wish to ask a question?
Mr. Gormley: The EAPC document states that among the specific subject areas on which allies and partners would consult would be nuclear issues, proliferation and defence as well as defence strategy and policy. How can the Minister come to the House and say the issue has nothing to do with this?
Mr. Andrews: There is no question but that NATO has a nuclear deterrent – there is no denying that and I am not trying to confuse the Deputy in that regard. I wish to make it very clear that Ireland will never join NATO.
Mr. Andrews: If the Deputy allows me I will conclude. I invite the House to recall the words of the Taoiseach when earlier this year he recalled Ireland's international vocation. He reminded us all that we do not live in anyone's shadow anymore and he has suggested that the Ireland of the new millennium should become more active and involved in the world around us, and shed any remaining isolationist instincts or inhibitions.
Mr. G. Mitchell: I welcome the decision of the Government to bring forward this motion enabling Ireland to join Partnership for Peace. I only regret that it has taken it so long to come to the realisation that this is the right thing to do, and in particular I regret that Fianna Fáil has so seriously misled people for so long as to what membership of PfP involves and has made promises about a referendum which it is now breaking. The Minister will be aware that I do not often make partisan, party political speeches, but it is really impossible on this occasion to avoid recalling what was said by Fianna Fáil as a referendum is at the centre of much of the expectation.
As I said last January in the House when Fine Gael put forward a motion proposing that Ireland join Partnership for Peace, this issue goes to the heart of where the Republic of Ireland sees her role in the world. Do we as a people continue to develop our proud tradition of maintenance of peace in the world by joining the principal forum  in Europe through which such co-operation and peacekeeping missions are being increasingly organised – Partnership for Peace – or do we shout encouragement to others from the sidelines? Are we as a State self-confident enough to enter such a forum knowing our values and principles, ready to argue for them and in so doing make our distinctive contribution to the maintenance of peace and security in the world?
We have heard much talk in recent days about this decision on PfP being sprung on the people or, in the words of Tallyman in The Sunday Tribune last Sunday, being bulldozed through. The truth is that this decision is long overdue and comes at the end of a debate initiated over four years ago with the public consultation process on and publication of the White Paper on foreign policy by the rainbow Government. It is worth recalling that the White Paper stated that the overall objectives of Partnership for Peace are consistent with Ireland's approach to international peace and European security. It also stated that the Government had decided to explore further the benefits that Ireland might derive from participation in PfP and to determine the contribution that Ireland might make to the partnership.
Fine Gael followed up initiation of the debate with the publication of the policy document, Ireland and the Partnership for Peace Initiative, in January 1998. The then Chief-of-Staff, Lieutenant General Gerry McMahon, in a widely reported speech argued for Irish membership of PfP in a speech to the Policy Institute in Trinity College in June 1998. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has discussed the issue on many occasions and it has been the subject of consideration in Foreign Affairs questions in this House on at least eight occasions since the Government took office.
Fianna Fáil began its road to Damascus conversion to PfP with an article by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in The Irish Times of 28 November 1998. This was followed by public comments by the Taoiseach to a Fianna Fáil meeting in UCD, by speeches by the Ministers for the Environment and Local Government and Defence and finally by the Taoiseach in this House on 27 and 28 January this year on a Fine Gael motion arguing for Irish membership of PfP.
We have had a long debate and it is time for us to make a decision. I accept that, due to Fianna Fáil opportunistic opposition and eventual U-turn, this has at times been a confusing debate. My party however has always been clear in its support for Irish membership of PfP. Since the debate in this House in January the Government has stated clearly its intention to bring forward this motion in the autumn session.
We will hear calls for a plebiscite from some Deputies in this debate. I understand the anger and frustration which Fianna Fáil's cynical U-turn on this issue has caused but such calls are nothing less than an abdication of political responsibility. Deputies are elected by the people to represent  them, to debate and legislate on matters of public policy. Such legislation must be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Beyond that Deputies are answerable to the electorate at least every five years and normally more regularly.
It is admitted by the Labour Party and the Green Party that a referendum on PfP is constitutionally unnecessary but we are informed that a consultative referendum should be held. At the root of this thinking is the notion that Deputies cannot be trusted on the issue of PfP. Have we learned nothing from previous experiences of this kind where Deputies allegedly could not be trusted? When difficult decisions are to be taken some want to leave it to the people or, more usually, the courts. What is a legislature for?
If we did have a referendum what question would be put? If the question was, should Ireland join PfP, almost anything could subsequently be negotiated once it is dressed up as arising from our membership of PfP. If, on the other hand, a constitutional amendment set out specific areas for PfP co-operation and these turned out not to suit our needs or capacity to contribute they could not in reality be amended without a further referendum.
In discussing a possible referendum we must be aware also of decisions which the people have already made in referendums, specifically in May 1998, when they approved the Amsterdam Treaty and the Good Friday Agreement. Under the Amsterdam Treaty Ireland agreed to play a greater role in European security through a common foreign and security policy and through a willingness to participate in Petersberg tasks – humanitarian, rescue, peacekeeping and crisis management. Would we not run the danger of having two conflicting constitutional provisions if a PfP referendum approved a lower level commitment than that envisaged by the Amsterdam Treaty?
A similar issue of possible conflicting amendments arises in relation to the Belfast Agreement under which the two Governments may wish to develop east-west or North-South security arrangements. Are we now to restrict this right by a tight PfP referendum setting out only minimal areas in which Ireland will participate?
Why do we need a consultative referendum on this issue more than any other? I can think of many issues on which a consultative referendum would be most welcome, including how we should spend the £6 billion surplus, prison reform, restructuring of the health service, world hunger and indebtedness in respect of which we are not meeting our commitments to the United Nations. When there is so much money in the coffers these are the issues on which I would like to consult the people. Joining PfP is just a small step, it is not an issue of fundamental importance. The money that it would cost to consult the people on this issue – £3 million – should be spent on something more crucial than PfP membership.
 Fianna Fáil has been cynical on this issue, promising one thing in opposition and doing something else in government. I recall the Taoiseach's speech when Leader of the Opposition in the debate on the White Paper in this House in 1996 in which he said:
PfP involves joint exercises with NATO on sea or land. Will they take place in Ireland? Will we be able to choose the NATO countries with whom we wish to have exercises? Will we have British troops back in the Curragh, the French in Bantry Bay, the Germans on Banna Strand, the Spanish in Kinsale and the Americans in Lough Foyle? Is that what we are talking about or will we take part in exercises abroad under NATO command. [He did not make any mention of French tailors on Inishvickillane.] We would regard any attempt to push Partnership for Peace or participation in Western European Union tasks by resolution through the House without reference to the people who under our Constitution have the right in final appeal to decide on all such questions of national policy as a serious breach of faith and fundamentally undemocratic.
I remember the wringing statements in the Fianna Fáil manifesto opposing PfP membership. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has gone out of his way to point out how he has been consistent in this matter but he has not. He said in this House in December 1997:
The PfP is a backdoor to NATO...The association between the PfP and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, is too close for comfort in the context of our military non-alliance and we need to preserve our neutrality.
That does not sit consistently with what the Minister said in the House today. I am aware that Fianna Fáil's weasel words that things have changed are nonsense, other than if they mean that was Opposition, this is Government. Fianna Fáil cynicism and U-turns must not however blind us to the facts, that PfP is a flexible programme of military and security co-operation between NATO and non-NATO states. PfP does not present any participant with any commitments other than voluntary participation in those PfP programmes. It is not a treaty in any sense and PfP membership does not imply any mutual defence commitments or membership of NATO or any commitment to it.
It was because PfP is a purely voluntary agreement that even Switzerland, a country which will not join the UN and which holds referenda several times a year, joined PfP without a referendum. A referendum would be nothing more than a costly political exercise to which the whole country would be put, because of Opposition political game playing, firstly by Fianna Fáil, who hastily abandoned the game on entering Government, and now sadly by the Labour Party who  did not seek a referendum when it was in Government.
The then Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, spoke eloquently in this House in response to Fianna Fáil's call for a referendum, pointing out that no referendum was necessary because PfP membership would in no way impinge on Irish neutrality. A referendum would cost £3 million, and for what? To get political parties off the hook. The time has come for us as legislators to do what the people pay us and elected us to do – to make decisions and legislate.
The presentation document sets out clearly the proposed areas in which Ireland will seek to work in PfP: co-operation in peacekeeping; humanitarian operations; search and rescue; co-operation in the protection of the environment; and co-operation in marine matters. It sets out clearly that: “Ireland's decision to participate in PfP is in full accordance with Ireland's policy of military neutrality, which has always been pursued in tandem with full and active support for collective security, based on international law.” The Minister expanded at length on what the presentation document states and on what Irish membership of the PfP will mean. I welcome the clarity, if somewhat belated, because it is crucial that these matters are clearly understood. This is important because some of the arguments made against joining PfP are so wild and inaccurate as to almost beggar belief. The line most often thrown out is that PfP membership would amount to “second class membership of NATO”, a military alliance with mutual defence obligations, and as such, would mean an end to Irish neutrality. Let us be clear, PfP is not a military alliance. It carries with it no mutual defence obligations; rather it is a co-operative structure in which participants themselves pick the areas in which they wish to co-operate. It is for this reason, as I have already mentioned, that ultra neutral Switzerland, which is not even a member of the UN because of the obligations it imposes on a member, is able to join PfP. It is why other traditional neutrals, such as Sweden, Finland and Austria, were willing to join PfP.
The second argument used is that PfP represents a step on the slippery road to full NATO membership. It is true that NATO and some PfP members see the possibility that some PfP members may eventually join NATO, but that would be entirely a question for that state and for the existing NATO members. As I have already mentioned, each state determines the parameters of its own partnership agreement and can restrict it to whatever area it wishes.
For Ireland, the position on possible NATO membership is clear. In a joint statement prior to the Maastricht referendum in June 1992 the leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, Democratic Left and the Progressive Democrats gave a commitment that there would be no change in Ireland's traditional policy of neutrality without there first being a referendum of the people. This was echoed in section 4 of the White Paper on  Foreign Policy in 1996 and in party manifestos in 1997. Irish membership of PfP would not affect our neutrality, as PfP involves no mutual defence obligations. Irish neutrality will be ended only if the Irish people so decide in a referendum. It is worth noting that this agreement is much sounder because it is given by all party leaders, unlike the Taoiseach's commitment on PfP.
The third spurious argument used against PfP membership is that it involves us in activities with states possessing nuclear weapons. The reality is that Irish peacekeepers have served and continue to serve with peacekeepers from France, Britain, the USA and Russia, all of whom possess nuclear weapons. France and Britain are full partners of ours in the European Union. What we never hear from the opponents of Irish membership of PfP are the advantages such membership would bring, especially in the context of the changing security architecture in Europe and the changing manner in which the UN operates. We are rightly proud as a people of our contribution to UN peacekeeping over the years. We have an illustrious reputation – as mentioned earlier this year by the UN Secretary General on his visit to Ireland, and as the Minister mentioned earlier – having served in 46,000 individual tours of duty involving 37 UN peacekeeping missions. As I said in the House yesterday, 76 Irish servicemen and women have died abroad while serving with the UN.
Opponents of Irish membership of PfP claim that it would damage our peacekeeping reputation and our ability to contribute to future missions. This ignores the reality that, increasingly, UN mandated peacekeeping operations are run by regional organisations such as the NATO led SFOR in Bosnia, the Russian led CIS troops in Georgia and Tajikistan, and the West African forces, Ecomog, in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The number of peacekeeping troops under direct UN command has fallen dramatically from a peak of 80,000 to approximately 14,000 today. The future lies in regional organisations taking the lead and as long as we stay outside we become marginalised and less able to continue our proud peacekeeping tradition in an effective way.
No less a person than the then Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gerry McMahon, whom I quoted earlier, made this clear in a speech he made in TCD in June 1998. He was clear on what our non-involvement in PfP would mean. He said: “For the Defence Forces it means we miss the opportunity to see and be involved in current peacekeeping and military training prevailing in neighbouring countries. Our ability to retain a competitive edge in the area of peace support is being eroded.”
Mr. G. Mitchell: Rather than PfP membership weakening our ability to engage in peacekeeping, it would strengthen it and enable it to continue into the future. As Paddy Smyth wrote in The Irish Times of 6 October last: “And in that sense, the subtext of discussion facing the Dáil about Irish involvement in PfP will in reality not be about neutrality but about Ireland's willingness to contribute in a practical way with international peacekeeping.”
The White Paper on Foreign Policy set out some of the other advantages of Irish membership of PfP. We would be working with OSCE partners on programmes of practical co-operation designed to reduce tension and promote overall security in Europe. Ireland has consistently called for and encouraged the development of such inclusive co-operative security arrangements. If we enhance the capacity of our Defence Forces to participate in UN or OSCE peacekeeping operations through training and exercises with countries with which we share a peacekeeping tradition, we will thus help to ensure that Ireland is in a position to make an important contribution in the field of peacekeeping.
It would enable the Defence Forces to make available to European countries which wish to develop their peacekeeping capacities, the benefits and lessons of Ireland's long experience in international peacekeeping operations. It would enhance Ireland's capacity to carry out search and rescue operations off our coast and to conduct humanitarian missions in response to national or other disasters. It would provide a framework for practical co-operation and planning to deal with drug trafficking and threats to the environment. I welcome the fact that the Government has taken on board these points in preparing Ireland's presentation documents.
We must also view this debate on Irish membership of PfP in the context of Ireland's role in the European Union. Twenty-six years of membership of the EU has been good for Ireland, enabling us to develop the vibrant prosperous State we have to day, albeit with serious problems to overcome in certain areas. On the basis of solidarity, the rich states in the EU helped Ireland develop through massive capital transfers.
The question is what role does Ireland intend to play in the Europe of the 21st century? The EU summit in Cologne last June agreed that the military planning and co-ordination functions of the Western European Union be incorporated into the EU. Ireland is involved fully in the discussions on how to bring this about and the transfer of these functions to the EU is expected to be completed by the end of 2000.
Europe is moving ahead on security co-operation and Ireland will face crucial decisions about what its role should be. Former NATO Secretary General, Javier Solana, is now the EU's “Mr. Common Foreign and Security Policy”– this is a signal we cannot afford to ignore. Serious unrest in the Balkans has seen tens of thousands killed, injured, raped, and ethnically cleansed. The view from the UN is that Europe must take the lead in conflicts in its Continent. What is  Ireland's role to be? To demand that somebody, somewhere, do something about events, such as the mass murder in Srebenica, as long as they are Dutch, German, American or British? There is nothing moral about standing on the sideline as civilians are butchered. As Professor Patrick Keating said in evidence to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on 1 July 1998:
Involvement with PfP is not about siding with one side; it is about siding with all other European states in being willing to contribute to maintaining peace on our Continent, on our terms and in our own way. It may mean peacekeeping and, perhaps, if Ireland should so decide, peace-enforcing. Sometimes force is necessary to ensure aid gets through or refugees in safe havens are protected. Never again must the world guarantee to protect and then fail to honour that guarantee, as it did with the betrayed people of Srebenica. Ireland can only make arguments such as these with credibility, if we, too, are willing to contribute.
The time has come for Ireland to join PfP. We have debated this issue inside and outside this House for more than four years, during the public consultations on, and since March 1996, on the published White Paper on Foreign Policy. The time has come to send a signal to our partners in Europe that we are willing to work together in Partnership for Peace. It is also time to send a signal to those countries throughout the world, whom we are lobbying for support in the elections to the UN Security Council, that we are willing to work in regional structures, which are the future for UN authorised peacekeeping missions. In addition, it is time to send a signal to our demoralised Defence Forces that we continue to see a valuable role for them in the developing security architecture.
I hope Fianna Fáil, in particular, has learned from this debate on PfP not to play petty politics with foreign policy, promising one thing in Opposition but reversing policy completely in Government. Has it learned to be honest with the people about the implications of certain decisions? Let us have no repeat of the farcical denials that PfP membership would not involve Ireland's appointment of an ambassador to NATO, as the Taoiseach did, while at the same time planning such an appointment. Let us have no more “stuck between a rock and a hard place” foreign policy. Let us have clear views and be clear in our views. The Government must be honest with the people about the evolving security dimension to the European Union. Fine Gael would not only welcome such a debate but, in the absence of Government views, would lead the debate, as it did the debate on Irish membership of Partnership for Peace. We must not only be part of the changing security architecture; we must be one of  the architects. What role do we want for Ireland? What role do we want for Europe?
Mr. G. Mitchell: If we wish to influence the future shape of European security architecture and not leave it to others to decide, we must join the other European neutrals in having our voice heard. I welcome the decision to join PfP and see it as the next small, but vital, step in Ireland's continuing search for a coherent foreign and security policy.
I remind the House that I have raised the issue of law and order here on several occasions. If we do not have law and order, who suffers? The elderly who are afraid to collect their pensions, children who cannot be sent on an errand to the corner shop because of congregating bullies, and women who suffer disproportionately because they are not as physically strong as their male thug attackers. Security on a European or wider basis is no more than law and order being enforced and kept. We need only reflect on cases of genocide, the horror of the breakdown in security in the Balkans, in East Timor and elsewhere. Law and order is, therefore, a matter of social justice, the protection of those who cannot protect themselves. Peacekeeping, peace-enforcement and the application of security policy is no different. It is a matter of social justice – standing up to the genocidal maniacs and bullies who wreak havoc on societies. I find it extraordinary and appalling that those who we might expect to uphold the principles of social justice most, and who certainly put themselves forward as proponents of social justice, can take such indifferent and opportunistic a stance when it comes to Partnership for Peace or participation in arrangements which are not only necessary but desirable to protect the weak and vulnerable.
I will move an amendment to the Government motion later in the debate, which I hope will ensure that anything we do in this area will not be done by way of a backdoor approach. I support membership of Partnership for Peace. I support joining it in an upfront way, through a front door approach. If there are changes to what has been set out in the document presented by the Minister, I want such changes to be debated here so that we can vote on them and pin our colours to the mast. The days when such issues could be dealt with on a nod and wink basis are long past. The debate on this issue has gone on for too long; it is time we voted on it and made a decision.
Mr. Quinn: This debate should not be taking place solely in this House. It is a debate, the Taoiseach led the people to believe would be decided upon by them by way of a consultative referendum. In the Fianna Fáil manifesto, he stated that, under a Fianna Fáil-led Government, Ireland would not join Partnership for Peace. In effect, the people were offered a double guarantee which has been unilaterally withdrawn. “Fundamentally undemocratic”, I think, is how the Taoiseach would describe it.
The decision on whether to join Partnership for Peace is the first of a series of issues, which will confront this nation about our international relationships. The issues of global interdependence, peace enforcement, democratic control of the military and United Nations reform are all issues that we will have to address. There are no easy answers to some of these questions.
Writing in a recent issue of The Economist the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, puts the question succinctly. Referring to a series of recent conflicts across the world, he states that they all give rise to fundamental questions. These questions go the heart of our Irish identity and our political values. How do we and how should we react to conflict, particularly those involving crimes against humanity and widescale human rights abuses, which occur in other countries?
The existing UN Charter leans heavily on the rights of states and the significance of boundaries, rights recently discussed during the Kosovo crisis. The issue was also raised in relation to East Timor, where pressure had to be brought to bear on Indonesia to allow the intervention of an internationally UN mandated force.
In Kosovo, a regional force acting without a mandate, save its own, intervened on behalf of the Kosovar people. A United Nations Security Council mandate would not have been secured for this action, but in Rwanda, where Security Council unanimity would have been easily achieved, there was not a regional force and as we, sadly, know, genocide on a massive scale took place.
In East Timor too, the prospect of a Security Council mandate was minimal and were it not for economic pressure, the genocide against the East Timorese would probably have continued. Many of those who claimed the moral authority to intervene in Kosovo showed a marked reluctance to intervene when the sphere of conflict was further away.
The situations in both Kosovo and East Timor gave rise to considerable anger and emotion in this country. Those emotions are not unique to Ireland. In part, they are drawn from a new relationship between citizen and state. They are an end to the principle of “my country, right or wrong”. Where once citizens served the state, the state is now expected to serve its citizens. Increasingly and instinctively, global citizens react against fundamental breaches of the rights of their fellow global citizens, whether it is in Kosovo, East Timor or the next country in which  an assault on decency is either contemplated or perpetrated.
These changes in the world, as Kofi Annan describes it, do not make hard political choices any easier but they oblige us to think anew about such questions as how the UN responds to humanitarian crises and why states are willing to act in some areas of conflict but not in others where the daily toll of death and suffering is as bad or perhaps even worse. The people want to be involved in finding an answer to these questions and are prepared to address issues which have implications for how we do our business. We cannot say, for example, that our foreign policy, perhaps until recently, has been informed by any criteria other than that of our own self-interest.
However, alongside this willingness to engage in any new international debate, there remains a marked attachment to our traditional position of military neutrality. The term, military neutrality, is not sufficient to fully describe the Irish position. As a nation, we have historically opted out. If we contrast our attitude to military neutrality and all its resonances, our position is not dissimilar to the attitude of our neighbours in Britain to the pound sterling. We are reluctant to give up military neutrality. The fear that to cede military neutrality starts us on the slippery slope to militarism remains strong. However, it is now competing with a view that Ireland must play its part in helping to police the world for democracy, not the warped vested interests of the Cold War and its imperialist predecessors.
That is why the reasons of control are central to the people. It is why many of the same people marched outside the US and UK Embassies during the Kosovo and East Timor crises arguing against intervention, on the one hand, and for it on the other. It is why we, as political parties, have always assured our people that there will not be any change to our neutral status without referral to the people. It is why the people have a strong attachment to the United Nations and our central supra-national involvement or membership of the European Union has been so successful. At each stage of the integration process we have debated issues as a people and we have decided upon them collectively.
I know the issue under discussion today does not in strict constitutional terms require a referendum. I am aware of the legal advice my party accepted when we were in Government, but so was the Fianna Fáil Party two and a half years ago when it promised such a referendum. We should not try to fool the people that nothing has changed, nothing is changing and that Ireland's membership of PfP is a stand alone event. Our world is changing. It is increasingly interdependent. As a global people we can see into each other's lives. We are the first generation to witness at first hand, global pain and experience global compassion. Such an experience cannot but alter our view of the world.
 The people are more than aware of the growing significance of regional alliances to the United Nations and their role in carrying out UN functions which are of increasing importance. They are also increasingly aware of the slow but steady evolution towards a common and foreign security policy within the European Union. They know the Government recently acquiesced to the appointment of the former Secretary General of NATO to co-ordinate that emerging policy. How are they supposed to trust a Government which promised unilaterally to consult them on other issues?
This Government is led by a Taoiseach who stated only three years ago that membership of the Partnership for Peace would mean British troops back in the Curragh, the French in Bantry Bay, the Germans in Banna Strand, the Spanish in Kinsale and the Americans in Lough Foyle. Such cheap and emotive scaremongering always comes back to haunt its propagators. The Taoiseach should hang his head in shame today. It is little wonder that politics is held in poor esteem by many people when efforts are made to whip up such emotions. Having made promises to the people, the Taoiseach breaks them without having the manners to explain why he made a U-turn.
Nothing has changed in the makeup of Partnership for Peace or our Constitution since the Taoiseach made those remarks, yet he is prepared to proceed as if he did not make them. The Taoiseach may find that such cynical manoeuvring costs him dear in the long run. He has won few friends in either the pro or anti-PfP camps. Yesterday he referred contemptuously to people picketing outside this House. However, he is responsible for stoking the fears to which the people are now responding. I ask him to come into the House and explain what, apart from his duplicity, has changed since he told the House in the debate on the White Paper on foreign policy that “while the Government may reassure the public that there are no implications for neutrality – and that may be technically true at this time – it will be seen by other countries as a gratuitous signal that Ireland is moving away from its neutrality and towards gradual co-operation in NATO and the Western European Union in due course”.
Given the absence of direction and conviction about this Government's foreign policy and its inability to assert itself either inside or outside the European Union, the Taoiseach's statement three years ago is probably more true now than at any stage in our history. This was not an election promise which could not be implemented or which ran into an insurmountable opposition but pure and naked opportunism. The Fianna Fáil manifesto commitment that Ireland should not join PfP ended the debate as the possibility of joining seemed to recede. The Taoiseach in the Dáil sought a cast iron pledge from the Government that it would not make any move without first consulting the people. It is interesting now  to think what he would have done about such a pledge.
An explanation of why the Government changed its mind might go some way towards restoring its credibility. By that I do not mean an erudite contribution from the Department of Foreign Affairs, but a political explanation from the Fianna Fáil Party as to why it changed its mind. For example, what behind-the-scenes forces operated and what compelling logic came into play about which we have heard nothing? It is unbelievable that Fianna Fáil is now repeating the arguments of the 1996 White Paper which it firmly and comprehensively rejected then.
Membership of PfP does not represent a significant departure in our foreign policy. However, membership of the EPAC and the appointment of an ambassador mark a considerable change in the nature of our relationship with NATO. There is a genuine fear, which the Taoiseach must address and which is evident in his party, that PfP is a means to obtaining back door entry to NATO. That fear is groundless – I listened to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who perhaps will not be in that position for much longer, offer his point of view and assurances – nevertheless, it is a fear which is now stalking the land. Having discussed this issue with other non-allied PfP members, I know many of them remain determined not to join the NATO bloc. For example, the Austrian Government's refusal to grant NATO planes use of its airspace during the Kosovo conflict is evidence of that intention.
However, there is a wider fear which needs a more careful response, that is, that membership of PfP amounts to conferring on NATO the role of Europe's policeman, a role it should not have. In this context, NATO's limitations became particularly clear during the Kosovo crisis. NATO's historical position of antagonism towards Russia in particular threatened to result in a considerable escalation of the Kosovo crisis. NATO is a Cold War relic, an organisation without sufficient democratic input, which is accountable to no one. To what democratic assembly was the decision to take out the central heating system of Belgrade referred? What elected group of politicians was consulted by a United States general before that so-called military action was embarked upon? In addition, its policy of first strike nuclear deterrence is also abhorrent to me and my colleagues in the Labour Party. While NATO itself has no direct imperial legacy, I fear its imperial swagger. As recently as last night, even Henry Kissinger, the great Cold War warrior and former Secretary of State under President Nixon, coming from the position at which he started and which he has maintained, questioned the continued relevance of NATO. That is why I worry about the drift into PfP and the conferral on NATO of this kind of role which will result in it becoming the policeman of Europe.
However, we live in the real world and there is no point in denying that NATO has filled a power vacuum. Its attractiveness to the new democracies  in central and eastern Europe is particularly understandable in the light of their historical relationship with imperial Russia. The power vacuum arises, however, because the region's major economic power, the European Union, does not carry political weight commensurate with its economic might. However, often, as in the cases of Palestine and Kosovo, the European Union is left to pick up the tab. Most people, from reading the news and listening to American politicians, would think the United States was sending most of the aid to Palestine. That is not true. The major donor of aid there is the European Union, the taxpayers in this Chamber and in the Gallery. Likewise, the damage caused by United States and NATO aircraft in Yugoslavia will be repaired with moneys from European taxpayers, not from the United States.
My party supports Ireland's wholehearted and active participation in the newly emerging European Union foreign and security policy. We welcome the commitment of the French, British and Germans to developing an EU policy position independent of NATO and the United States while at the same time working in close co-operation with them. This is an opportunity the Irish Government should be vigorously pursuing within the terms of the Amsterdam Treaty, which was ratified in referendum by the citizens of this Republic.
As an institution, the European Union is globally unique, built on the back of a war-torn continent, its continued existence and its internal solidarity is proof of its success in bringing to an end, for a common peaceful purpose, old tensions and historical rivalries. At a regional level, it embodies my party's principles of commitment to international solidarity and rule by law. Its experience over 40 years in conflict resolution and peace building is unparalleled. It would be selfish of us to keep that experience to ourselves and not to attempt to export it where it is sought, to our neighbours in Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
Ultimately, the European Union is a democratically accountable body. Notwithstanding the weaknesses of its constitutional structures, it is a body in which elected politicians, with all their faults, call the shots, a body which is conferring increasing powers on its own Parliament, a body which will, through the values and policies it espouses at international level, be democratically accountable. However, while European security based within an EU framework is a great deal more preferable to the NATO centred alternative, both involve difficult choices and would invoke opposition from a significant section of the Irish people. For example, two members of the European Union possess a nominal independent nuclear capacity. Many have sizeable armaments industries. Most of our European partners have an imperial past. To participate in such a structure will involve some relinquishing of sovereignty on our part. We must recognise the difficulties this will pose for all of us. It will require  an opt-in rather than an opt-out. It will involve a considerable increase in expenditure on defence, which is overdue, even if we confine ourselves to UN peacekeeping operations.
In many ways PfP is merely a small part of a much wider debate except that the circumstances of our joining will cloud the bond between Government and people which has always existed here as regards foreign policy. This is an important point. The emotional and political attachment of the Irish people to military neutrality is very real. The manner in which this Government has decided to join PfP deeply offends many people, not just in Fianna Fáil, but across the country. The complexity of issues which I have outlined will be further complicated by the consequences of this act of political duplicity and electoral opportunism. Instead of an open debate and decision involving the Irish people who, I believe, would have endorsed the Government's decision to join PfP, there is mounting cynicism that the Government is pursuing a secret agenda in respect of our foreign policy.
In fact, the desire to keep the people out of the equation has gone way beyond the Government. Many political commentators, writing on this issue over the last couple of months, seem happy to convey the impression that this is a debate out of which the Irish people should be kept. It is simply nonsense to claim there has been a national debate. Intermittent newspaper articles as the various stages of the process were completed do not constitute a debate of any kind. Neither does the limited circulation of a White Paper on the issue which the vast majority of the public have hardly seen or even know exists.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard Ministers and the Taoiseach – whose U-turn has put him on the back foot – deny that PfP is a NATO sponsored programme. It clearly is and the presentation document we are discussing is this country's contract with NATO. As such, it would be instructive to compare the terms of the presentation document with those of other neutral countries. At first reading, the commitment to peacekeeping within the PfP framework is stronger than that contained in either the Finnish or Swedish documents. The Minister should address that and the following questions.
Does he feel the nature and extent of this commitment has any impact on our traditional peacekeeping role under the auspices of the United Nations? What are the cost implications of this decision? In the memorandum that was brought to Government under the standard provision cost implications of this decision, was an estimate provided and, if so, can that be put before the House?
As a member of the Cabinet which first decided Ireland should consider membership of PfP, I still support that decision. Any organisation that can provide a modicum of stability in central and eastern Europe in accordance with the UN  charter and the principles of the OSCE is welcome. So, too, are the opportunities this would provide for the Irish Defence Forces to train with the best and most modern equipment. On balance, if there is no alternative – there is none at present – PfP is better than a vacuum. However, it is far from perfect.
We are merely at the beginning of a debate about how, as a global community, we do our business. In Ireland there are fundamental choices to be made about the level of engagement we wish to take in that global business. The legal basis underpinning our neutrality is no more than a declaration of sovereignty over our armed forces. It does not amount, in constitutional terms at least, to a statement of values on our part. It should be clearly understood that in the economic, political and cultural areas, we have already permitted a diminution of that sovereignty in the national interest. Global peace and security is as crucial to us as any of these other ideals. That PfP does not impact upon this constitutional position is proof, in itself, that greater issues lie ahead.
The Government's silence on these wider issues is a source of concern. Ireland is currently campaigning for a place on the Security Council but it is difficult to understand why. We have yet to put on the table any ideas about the reform of that institution. We want to join the Security Council but have we any ideas for its reform? Are we satisfied, for example, that the force of a UN mandate and international law can be vetoed by a single state, regardless of the scale of abuse taking place? What is our determination to address the issue that Kofi Annan puts, namely, that it is essential the international community reaches consensus not only on the principle that massive and systematic violations of human rights must be checked wherever they take place but also on ways of deciding what action is necessary and when and by whom?
This Government, led by Fianna Fáil – the Progressive Democrats do not feature in this matter, it is a solo run by Fianna Fáil – has stumbled to where it finds itself today. It has duped the Irish people on the way and no amount of obfuscation in the House or reference to legal and constitutional principle will hide that, and the public know it.
Mr. B. Smith: I welcome the opportunity to make a short contribution to this important debate. I welcome the Minister's clear statement that there is no conflict between participation in Partnership for Peace and our policy of military neutrality. He stated clearly that according to the legal advice available, participation in PfP has no implication for our neutrality or sovereignty. Were it not for those assurances, I would not support our participation in this organisation.
At present, due to the madness of ethnic cleansing and state sponsored genocide, the job of keeping the peace is more complex than ever. There is greater emphasis on the need for conflict prevention and peace enforcement. Other vital tasks now face the world's defence forces, such as disaster relief, the provision of aid to refugees and helping to rebuild civil society on the smouldering embers of war. In this new challenging era, there is a necessity for armed forces to be able to work together, to follow agreed procedures and to operate standardised equipment.
It should also be borne in mind that Ireland has much to offer the Partnership for Peace. I have already mentioned our peacekeeping duties with the United Nations and the considerable experience of our armed forces in their work at home and abroad. Participation in Partnership for Peace is not a halfway house to membership of NATO. Of the 43 participants in the PfP, 24 are not members of NATO. Ireland will not be under any pressure to adhere to NATO strategies or policies. Nuclear weapons will not be allowed on our territory. Each state can determine its level of involvement and the areas of the PfP's activities that are most relevant and in keeping with their national interest. That was made clear by the Minister this afternoon.
Our policy of neutrality and non-membership of military alliances is not threatened. Partnership for Peace is not a mutual defence pact like NATO. It is a partnership, a network for co-operation, and we are not bound to render military assistance to any other participant. Our participation does not violate our Constitution and there is, therefore, no need to submit the decision to a referendum. Some of those who call for a referendum like to see themselves as representing the will of the people. However, look at the example offered by one of the other neutral countries which joined the Partnership for Peace, Switzerland. There was no referendum in Switzerland, a country with a long tradition of putting important questions to its people. A referendum could still have taken place as a result of a popular initiative in that country by collecting a sufficient number of signatures but the Swiss people did not consider that option.
Ireland's neutrality is not in danger. If anything, it will be strengthened. We have not been active enough in the past in pursuing co-operation with countries such as Switzerland and Austria because there has not been a forum for such co-operation outside United Nations sanctioned missions, in which the Swiss do not participate.  There were people in the 1940s and 1950s who criticised the Fianna Fáil Governments of that time for applying to join the United Nations because of the danger to our neutrality which they manufactured. The same people then, as now, confused a neutral foreign and defence policy with a neutered policy. Can anybody today honestly say that our neutrality was endangered by UN membership? Similarly is there anyone who is not proud of the thousands of Irish soldiers who have participated in peacekeeping missions, especially when they think of the inestimable number of lives, mostly civilian, that have been saved as a result? Fianna Fáil Governments have always been, and continue to be, active in support of our neutrality because they realise it is neither an easy option nor a cop out.
We are horrified by war, yet there are times where common action in defence of democracy and human rights has to be taken against aggressors. There are those, no doubt well-meaning people, who say conflict should never be resorted to even in response to aggression. We saw this recently with regard to Kosovo when pleas for a negotiated settlement issued forth from those supporters of peace when Milosovic's thugs and maniacs torched villages and massacred men, women and children, some as young as four years, and threw their bodies into wells. It is not enough to condemn the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, we have a responsibility as Irish people and as human beings to ensure every effort is made to stamp out this despicable behaviour in the future.
The Partnership for Peace has an important political dimension to which Ireland will become a member on joining. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council has already pointed towards areas of mutual co-operation, benefiting not only participants but the world in general. One of these is mine clearance. Farmers in Bosnia ploughing their fields and children playing along hedgerows fall victim to conflicts where the fighting has stopped but the killing continues. What do we tell people whose limbs have been blown off – that we are too proud to take every and any measure to stop this happening to their relatives and family members? There are innocent people dying today, probably while this debate goes on, as a result of the lack of action in regard to mines.
In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, the Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, told Dáil Éireann that his Government would pursue a policy of neutrality because the Government was the guardian of the interests of our people. In 1999, by joining the Partnership for Peace on our conditions, the Government is similarly guarding the interests of our people.
Mr. M. Kitt: I thank Deputy Smith for sharing his time. I welcome this motion approving Ireland's participation in the Partnership for Peace. I am honoured to be a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. There has been considerable interest in that com mittee in this issue. Ambassadors from four of the so-called neutral states in the PfP put their views before the committee and there was a very interesting and necessary debate on this issue. We had a vote on the final report of the committee, which was nine to one in favour of participation. That is welcome.
One of the issues I raised at the committee and in my party is the financial cost of joining PfP. The Minister said there is a modest figure involved. I understand it is in the region of £900,000 to set up and running costs are in the region of £600,000.
Mr. M. Kitt: Yes, ongoing costs. It is good value for money because we are talking about joining an organisation where there is a framework for co-operation and confidence building. The decision by the Government is good for the country and the morale of the defence forces because Ireland should stay in the mainstream of defence keeping. Our defence forces should have a full voice in preparing for peacekeeping missions. The Partnership for Peace gives them that voice.
Partnership for Peace is a major framework for co-operation, training and preparation for UN peacekeeping, humanitarian tasks and crisis management. There are, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated, 43 OSCE states in the PfP and 12 OSCE states, including Ireland, outside it. Twenty-four of the 43 countries are non-members of NATO. These include all our EU partners, the neutral states, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. There is no conflict between participation in PfP and a policy of military neutrality. The advice of the Attorney General and that of previous Attorneys General is that a referendum is not legally necessary. There are no implications for neutrality or sovereignty in the motion before us. This was also the view of the previous Government when it was in office.
The membership of PfP by the neutral states is reassuring for us. These states, as their ambassadors stated at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, have focused on practical co-operation for peacekeeping and crisis management. I hope that the neutral states will remain in the PfP. Twelve states, including Ireland, are outside PfP and this can be seen as isolationist. Some of the 24 countries may joint NATO, as Deputy Gay Mitchell said, but it is a matter for each country. The Minister stated clearly at paragraph 3 of the presentation document that Ireland pursues a policy of military neutrality and does not intend to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Ireland's decision to participate in PfP is in full accord with Ireland's military neutrality which has always been pursued in tandem with full and active support for collective security based on international law. That is the most important paragraph in the presentation document.
 We have heard about the end of military neutrality going back to when Ireland joined the UN. We heard about the threat to our neutrality when we joined the Common Market in the seventies and the same arguments were made when we voted on the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty and the Amsterdam Treaty. However, nothing happened. I welcome particularly the Minister's statement that Ireland's participation in PfP will be on our terms, as set out in the presentation document.
Ireland has been actively engaged in UN peacekeeping and it is a defining element in our foreign policy. We can learn about new developments in peacekeeping and we should not be slow to share our experience with others. There is a high regard for Ireland in the area of peacekeeping and within the UN.
One of the key words in the PfP debate is co-operation. New models of co-operation at regional level have been endorsed by the UN and the OSCE. Ireland would not be obliged to participate in exercises. It would be entirely voluntary and at our discretion. The Minister stated that we have served alongside NATO countries in UN peacekeeping missions for over 40 years and there is nothing inappropriate in training with such countries for peacekeeping purposes.
As regards the EAPC, I welcome the intention of the EAPC to examine ways in which it might support global humanitarian action against mines and how to contribute to the transfer and control of small arms as large numbers of people are killed by mines and the use of small arms.
Many Deputies have spoken on the arms industry among NATO countries and our EU partners. I am glad the Minister for Foreign Affairs raised the issue of disarmament, one that goes back to the stand taken by the late Frank Aiken when he was Minister for External Affairs.
The Irish Defence Forces have been actively involved in humanitarian assistance. We are all familiar with Ireland's response to natural and other disasters. Our Defence Forces have served with the UNHCR and Irish aid agencies on several continents and have assisted in Honduras, Africa, East Timor and Russia in the past. We now have an opportunity, through membership of Partnership for Peace, to progress that involvement. In the words of the Taoiseach, we should become more involved in the world around us and leave isolation behind us. I support the motion.
“and further accepts that any proposed future amendment to the areas of participation by Ireland in the Partnership for Peace as outlined in the Presentation Document will be put before Dáil Éireann for approval.”
I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate which is central to the role  Ireland wishes to play in international and European security. It is also connected to the role we wish to pursue in terms of protecting human rights internationally. It raises key questions on how, when and where our Defence Forces will participate in international peacekeeping. I regret that the debate has become clouded for a variety of political motives and that Partnership for Peace has been presented in the debate as something it is not. Yesterday, we passed a motion in the House to send Irish troops to East Timor and, undoubtedly, that has the support of Irish people. Four or five months ago we passed a motion to ensure Irish troops would serve in Kosovo, another initiative which I believe has the support of the vast majority of people. They were both peace enforcement missions. It is clear that our involvement in Partnership for Peace would give our Defence Forces the opportunity to train with other armies and develop new peace enforcement skills which would provide them with a higher level of training in issues of human rights in the post and pre-conflict situations that are so prevalent in the world today. It would mean the troops we sent to Kosovo several months ago and the troops we agreed yesterday would go to East Timor will be even more effective than they have been in the past. Essentially, Partnership for Peace is about inter-operability between defence forces so that they can do the tasks demanded of them in a better way in the increasingly complex situations in which they are asked to intervene.
I want to refer to the history of peacekeeping and the way it is evolving. Kofi Annan of the United Nations said it is absolutely clear that we will increasingly have to rely on regional organisations to deliver peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. Kofi Annan supports the development of regional organisations but it should not be assumed that to support Partnership for Peace is to want to see a weakening of the UN. That point was made by many people. The UN has been ineffective but it is perfectly compatible to want to see a strong Partnership for Peace and a reformed UN that is more effective in its interventions. The two are not mutually incompatible. We have always participated in UN missions and we should work to see reform in the UN. We should work to ensure that the United States, for example, pays its debt to the UN so that the UN can be more effective. That is important.
The debate has also assumed that if we enter Partnership for Peace we will lose our voice on issues such as the arms trade, which is a major problem. We should see it as an opportunity to work proactively with other neutral countries and to have a stronger voice in another fora. We should not confuse the debate by pretending that joining Partnership for Peace means there is a mutual defence obligation. There is no such obligation. That is the line in the sand that has been drawn in Irish foreign policy and it is disingenuous to pretend it has changed. Members of the previous Government said that if there was  to be any change in that status, it would be put to the people by way of referendum. One of the unfortunate side effects of the way Partnership for Peace has been handled by Fianna Fáil is that the people's belief in that commitment has been considerably undermined.
Another issue which has clouded the debate has been the inconsistency in the Fianna Fáil position on Partnership for Peace. The Taoiseach's statement in Opposition, with its dramatic stereotyping of the sort of work Partnership for Peace has done, created a great deal of confusion and concern, and frightened people to a degree. Let us be clear about Partnership for Peace. It is about inter-operability between defence forces but it does not involve a mutual defence obligation. It has been overstated somewhat but the other neutral countries, including Switzerland, are members of Partnership for Peace so it is not a forum that involves a mutual defence obligation which has been the core concern of Irish foreign policy over the years. It does not involve any Article 5 commitment and it does not mean automatic support for NATO operations as a number of countries, including Switzerland, Finland and Austria, made clear during the crisis in Kosovo.
The Irish document makes it clear that our involvement in Partnership for Peace is strictly limited to peacekeeping, crisis management, search and rescue and humanitarian missions. It is intended to strengthen the capacity involved in UN mandated operations which have enormous support in this country. The complex nature of multinational peacekeeping requires intensive collaboration between armies in order to work. That is a key point in relation to Partnership for Peace.
I want to review briefly the history of Ireland's commitment to peacekeeping. There is no doubt that in proportion to our population and resources Ireland's commitment has been substantial. We currently have more than 800 personnel involved and this has resulted in a positive image of us in the international community. As a country without a reputation for aggression towards other states, we are suited to offer the impartiality peacekeeping requires. We have played a proud role in the promotion of global peace and security over the past 50 years but times change and so do our commitments. As we enter a new political age we need to rethink our strategies and modernise our policies. The world now is different from the world of the 1950s and it is clear that the increasingly overburdened United Nations system is no longer able to react to crisis alone. It is widely recognised that regional organisations have a key role to play in preventing and containing conflict. Organisations such as the OSCE, Partnership for Peace and the Western European Union have been mandated to address a wide range of issues and problems. Their response should, and do, increasingly focus on the totality of a conflict or potential conflict and not just on the military aspects alone. This  has enormous implications for the type of training we should give our Defence Forces.
For example, the United Nations training school in the Curragh should be given much more resources. There should be an increased emphasis on training in human rights in the Defence Forces and the Garda. A human rights unit should be set up within the Defence Forces so that, as our peacekeepers move out to do the sort of work that is increasingly demanded of them, they will be operating to the very highest level in terms of their knowledge, awareness and understanding of the human rights conflicts and dilemmas with which they will be presented. It is very important that, as we get further involved in Partnership for Peace, these aspects are highlighted in military and Garda training.
The scope of the mandates which these organisations are increasingly receiving reflects the changes in the nature of the threats we face. Security must be much more broadly defined than heretofore as encompassing anything that threatens the core values and institutions of our society. This could include, for example, international terrorism or well resourced organised crime. Other threats that might undermine our security include a nuclear accident or other environmental catastrophes that could lead to the destruction or lasting contamination of large areas of the world. This is the context in which we must see the move towards regional peacekeeping organisations. It also illustrates, once again, the point I made about the changes that are necessary in the training of peacekeeping troops.
A number of people have already made the point that we cannot shirk our responsibilities towards the international community. The experience gained from our involvement, and that of our fellow UN members, must be put into organisations such as Partnership for Peace. New initiatives in peacekeeping now focus on governance, humanitarian issues and post-conflict rehabilitation. There is increased emphasis on conflict prevention and the development of early warning systems.
This means we are going to work much more in these situations with NGOs, which also has implications for the training of our Defence Forces. We must work in a more creative and meaningful way with NGOs, both before and after we go on these peacekeeping missions, so that the missions are more effective. Co-operation is needed between the Defence Forces and the NGOs. We need a different approach from our military in many of the situations in which they find themselves. The kind of training they receive will be the key to success in many of these cases. We have seen how volatile are East Timor and Kosovo. It is very clear that communication skills will be key, quite apart from the necessary logistical and military skills, equipment and training.
Ms Fitzgerald: I think that is another debate. The United Nations Secretary General defined the contemporary approach to peacekeeping as a technique that expands the possibilities for both the prevention of conflict and the making of peace. We have already been involved in protection in the Lebanon, prevention in Cyprus and Macedonia and peace enforcement in Somalia and, now, in East Timor. Therefore, we have been involved in all the different types of peacekeeping.
Our support for Partnership for Peace will have benefits. The sense of international obligation which will be fulfilled by our involvement is an important aspect. The greater north-south, east-west co-operation, in the context of the Good Friday Agreement, is another aspect. Greater co-operation in combating drug trafficking and organised crime, counter-terrorist activities and search and rescue is part of what it will offer us.
When Partnership for Peace was set up it was probably seen by some countries as an entry to NATO. However, we must acknowledge that it has changed. Some members of Partnership for Peace will see it as a door to NATO. However, others will not see it, nor want it to be seen, as that and will not use it in that way. They will use it in the way I have described, which is how I believe Ireland will use it.
If we are to believe what is in our presentation document and if the amendment proposed by Fine Gael, which says there should be no changes in that partnership document without first coming back to the Dáil, is adhered to, that will be the context in which Ireland will participate. Any changes will come back to the Dáil. Any question of further changes in our neutrality will be a matter for referendum and, I hope, a different quality and more honest debate than we have had on Partnership for Peace, and one in which the public will not be confused as it has been on this occasion.
It is clear that if we are to become involved in further peacekeeping, the investment in the Defence Forces that was promised as a result of the voluntary early retirement schemes and the sale of barracks should be made. I call on the Minister to examine the investment that is needed in the Army, the Air Corps and the Navy in this context.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I welcome the opportunity, once again, to participate in this debate. This is the third time since the beginning of the year that I have had that privilege – in January, May and, now, October. Yesterday, when we gave a mandate for the participation of our troops in East Timor, was another occasion for us to review this very important aspect of our international obligation.
 This Parliament has inherited a tradition from some great men, such as Frank Aiken, who won respect for Ireland throughout the world because Ireland stood for principles of justice, human rights and disarmament. These people set the basis for a unique role for Ireland in all international organisations, such as the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. It is entirely appropriate that we of this generation – although I am nearly between two generations at this point, having had the privilege of serving here for over 34 years and of learning my trade from that great generation who were still here when I was first elected in 1965, including our great, distinguished former Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, to whom I will return in a moment – should look at this objectively and analyse it from a position of principle, conviction and concern, not just for ourselves but for the world at large and for those principles that have guided us in our foreign policy throughout those years.
In each of my contributions I focused particularly, if not exclusively, on one aspect which concerns me greatly, which is the unspeakable arms trade and the consequences for innocent wretches throughout the world of the increasing exportation of armaments from many countries with which we would be associated in Partnership for Peace. I have consistently expressed that view because I feel it is a matter of obligation. A partnership for peace must, by definition, equally involve a partnership against war. For that reason, those who will proclaim themselves as being committed to Partnership for Peace must examine and change their ways in respect of their partnership against war, to which I will return in a moment.
Many countries with whom we are friendly and co-operate, such as the United States with which we have a strong family and close natural link, have not done anything significant to restrict the control of armaments to some of the most brutal regimes in the world, including, most recently, Indonesia. However, lest anyone think it is just Indonesia, I remind them that there are many dictatorships or semi-dictatorships throughout South America. There are others, such as Turkey, whose human rights records are not commendable, to say the least. There are many brutal regimes in regional conflicts in Africa which have been supplied by the armaments exports for profit of some of those with whom we will now be in partnership.
We can be reminded that we are also in the United Nations and the European Union with them. However, now that we are contemplating and taking on this new dimension, we must as a matter of obligation say to those partners, be they in the United Nations, the European Union or the Partnership for Peace, that this will not be accepted and tolerated by those of us with an obligation to speak up for human rights, especially the most basic, the right to life, of those innocent wretches who are always the victims of the profiteering arms trade.
 That is why I have especially focused in my discussions, both in this House and with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on that specific issue. I have received assurances not just on a personal level but in terms of the actual formal commitment relating to the presentation document we present as a characteristic and condition of our involvement with Partnership for Peace. I will refer to some of the paragraphs in that document. We must rely on these to ensure our partners fulfil the commitments stated here. For example, paragraph 5 states:
Participation in PfP entails reaffirmation of the commitment of participating states to the fulfilment of the commitments and obligations they have undertaken in the field of disarmament and arms control. Ireland reaffirms its commitments and obligations in this area.
I cannot dissociate myself or disagree in any way with that, but I and the people want to be assured that the partners mean what they say when they say a “reaffirmation of [their] commitment to the fulfilment of the commitments and obligations they have undertaken in the field of disarmament and arms control”. I am not impressed with the implementation up to now of such commitments in disarmament and arms control. I have expressed my appreciation of the consistency of all Irish Governments, but most recently the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has not only shown a consistent position on this but has won support through the United Nations from other like-minded countries for a continuation and extension of the nuclear disarmament commitments first launched by the late Frank Aiken. That is enhancing our position.
I also discussed paragraph 9 of our presentation document with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach some weeks ago prior to this debate. Perhaps the views I expressed may have made some contribution to this presentation document. I do not wish to put it beyond that. The paragraph states:
[We welcome] the intention of the EAPC to examine ways in which it might support global humanitarian action against mines. [We] also [welcome] the initiative to examine how EAPC might contribute to controlling the transfer of small arms, recognizing the high number of innocent civilian casualties caused by the use of mines and small arms.
That is one of the scandalous facts of this generation. I welcome the intention of the EAPC to examine ways in which it might support global humanitarian action against mines and for disarmament. One has to work in political life and in international politics on a certain level of trust.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I accept that and will come to that in a minute. Deputy Higgins and I are ad idem on this. I want to see those global commitments being honoured. To welcome today is not enough unless, in the course of our membership – and we are not tied to this; it is not an obligation; we can review it at any time – the actions, as Deputy Higgins rightly said, reflect the words we do not see being reflected at present and which we have not seen being reflected before this.
In paragraph 11, which deals with our co-operation on peacekeeping and which is a great feature of our position, it is clear that Ireland has probably the most consistent significant role in peacekeeping of all the member states of the United Nations. Since 1958, Irish peacekeepers and military observers have participated in 46,000 individual tours of duty involving 37 UN peacekeeping missions. I wish to draw two points from that. With respect, I disagree with the Taoiseach, as quoted by the Minister, when he said we do not live in anyone's shadow anymore and suggested the Ireland of the new millennium should become more active and involved in the world around us and shed any remaining isolationist instincts or inhibitions. We all live in each other's shadow. It is essential we recognise that simple fact and there is a lovely old Irish seanfhocal which states it clearly: “Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine”. We live in the shadow of what happens in East Timor, Rwanda, South America or wherever and they live in ours. Therefore, it is important we say that we live in each other's shadow.
Equally, from my experience as Minister for Foreign Affairs and 34 years in national politics, a considerable amount of which was spent in Government, if we are told we should become more active and involved in the world around us and shed any remaining isolationist instincts or inhibitions, I must ask how a country which has our record in peacekeeping and our acceptability to all the member states can be said to be isolationist or inhibitionist. We have the seventh largest commitment in the world in gross terms up to this time, but in proportion to our population, it is by far the largest record of commitment to United Nations peacekeeping. I want to see that enhanced and enforced. When we come to co-operation and peacekeeping, if we are determined, as paragraph 11 says, to continue our commitment to peacekeeping – not peace enforcement, because that is not the mandate we are accepting – then we have nothing to do to change our position in respect of the consistent policy we have followed over the years.
Regarding the Minister's speech, I wish to make some points which I hope are of significance because what we say in this debate will be noted, recorded, researched examined and tested by the generations which come after us. This is an important debate. The Minister said:
Irish involvement in any peacekeeping or peace enforcement operation is voluntary, is subject to Dáil decision and requires a European Security Council mandate, and participation in PfP does not and cannot alter this situation.
I do not want to see us welcoming developments in terms of disarmament. I want to see us adhering to them very consistently. I want the Minister to address two issues. First, will he assure us that the joint operations training programmes about which we are concerned and which will be considered under Partnership for Peace cannot and will not in any way intrude on the provisions of our Constitution and specifically Article 15.6.2 which I do not now have time to quote but which very clearly vests the sole power and authority in the forces of this State under this Government and this Oireachtas? Second, it is important that Deputy Higgins intervened quite properly a moment ago. The responsibility here is vested in this Oireachtas. The Government of the day introduces the legislation for this Oireachtas. It is not vested in any military officer, retired or serving, of this nation. It never was and never can be. I repudiate entirely the position of certain former generals, lieutenant-generals and senior officers who are making statements as to what we should do here, accepting declarations and honours from Governments because of their commitment to peacekeeping. That has not been the tradition from the first Government of this State, represented in the first instance by the Members opposite, of the Free State Government, nor by any Government following. We have the sole responsibility and will not be—
Mr. Timmins: I disagree with Deputy O'Kennedy's comments about comments made by retired individuals of the Defence Forces. As citizens of this country, they are perfectly entitled to make a contribution. While it has not been the practice to date, perhaps a certain frustration on  their part has crept through that has caused them to take this stance.
Partnership for Peace has received much publicity in recent weeks. Unfortunately, however, in the main it has been for the wrong reasons. On Friday, 23 January 1998, Deputy Gay Mitchell launched Fine Gael's policy document on Partnership for Peace which strongly advocated Irish membership. A very comprehensive document was produced, running to almost 20 pages. A press conference was held. However, only one of the national dailies gave it any coverage, and that was a mere two column inches.
On Wednesday, 7 June 1998, I raised the matter on the Adjournment Debate in the Dáil when I asked the Minister not to fudge the issue with neutrality or a European army as it has nothing to do with either. In response the Government stated: “We remain unconvinced that the arguments have been made that Ireland should participate in Partnership for Peace”. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs did a great service to the advancement of membership when it invited the Ambassadors of Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, all neutral countries, to address the committee on the subject on 1 July 1998. This, more than anything else, set the debate rolling. However, it is a debate that has been called into disrepute by much misinformation. If any lesson is to be learned here, it is that no Opposition or Government should use foreign policy as an instrument to court favour with the public or as a means of gaining electoral advantage. To do so using such emotive language as “the British in the Curragh” or “the French at Killala” is grossly irresponsible. For many years now, members of the Irish Defence Forces have availed of military courses in England, France and the USA.
The Green Party and other groupings of similar outlook have sought to question Partnership for Peace in many areas. While one has to respect various different views, the questionable emphasis on the name itself “Partnership for Peace” is disingenuous, as they exclaim that it is a clever ploy to dress a monster as some friendly toy. The same criteria could probably be applied to the Green Party itself. I do not buy the concept of don't touch those who are involved in the arms industry. We can pontificate from outside and from afar and achieve nothing; inside we can seek to assist and influence.
Ireland has a proud and distinguished record in the field of international peacekeeping. Article 29.1 of the Constitution provides a foundation for this tradition. It states that Ireland is devoted to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation among nations founded on international justice and morality. This ethos led to our membership of the United Nations in 1955.
Since the late 1980s and the end of the Cold War, the texture of international peacekeeping arrangements has changed dramatically, and this change led to the establishment of Partnership for Peace in 1994. Partnership for Peace was first  conceived under the stewardship of Les Aspen, former US Defence Secretary in 1993. It was publicly launched on 19 January 1994 at the NATO Summit of the Heads of State and Government. This summit was attempting to address the problems of security and stability in Europe following the end of the Cold War. There was an eagerness on the part of former Warsaw Pact countries, fearing Russian instability and possible aggression, to join NATO. At the same time NATO's member states were concerned that an accelerated enlargement of the alliance would destabilise Russian politics. Thus, Partnership for Peace was a compromise.
At the outset it received mixed reviews and was greeted in several quarters with a good deal of scepticism. Some quarters view Partnership for Peace as a method to buy time for NATO as that organisation dealt with the enlargement issue. However, within a couple of years, this view had given way to an altogether more upbeat evaluation. Partnership for Peace is now seen as having an intrinsic value in its own right and it is set to become a permanent fixture in the new European security architecture. In the post-Cold War security environment, the nature of peacekeeping is changing and NATO's 60,000 strong IFOR operation in Bosnia has shown how important it may be in the future to have military forces with the means to enforce peace agreements. If this requires a greater contribution than the UN is capable of delivering, then the UN or regional groups, such as the OSCE, will need to be able to mandate military forces to act on their behalf.
The old UN peacekeeping model cannot deal with modern conflicts. Today it only has a role in the more stable regions like Cyprus and Lebanon. Society evolves, peacekeeping methods evolve and our thinking must also evolve. While some sections may lament the old clean and acceptable image of the UN, that image can no longer meet the needs of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo any more than it can meet the needs of the people of East Timor as they flee the scorched earth policy of the Indonesian army.
There has been a very sad lack of political leadership on this issue here. Fine Gael has stood firm at all times, as has the Green Party. We should have set our stall out at the very beginning. If this course of action had been adopted, all the misinformation, dilution and confusion that has been created by sections of the body politic would never have had an opportunity to flourish. This is not about restricting debate but rather trying to eradicate manipulation of the public. Recent manoeuvrings by some would not look out of place at Lanigan's Ball as they stepped and stepped out.
The Taoiseach, on the Order of Business on Tuesday last, said there was very little interest in the matter among the general public. In many respects we are to blame for this due to the different messages we are sending out. Irish people do, however, wish to make a contribution to world peace. In an MRBI survey carried out in Sep tember 1996, which asked whether Ireland should join the NATO led Partnership for Peace programme, 77 per cent of the respondents agreed, 13 per cent were against, and just under 11 per cent had no opinion.
To join Partnership for Peace Ireland must sign the framework document. The level of commitment, speed of implementation and scope of the involvement are then decided upon by the signatory country in agreement with NATO. It is important to note it is an individual agreement between each partner and NATO; it is not a military alliance. Partner nations join for different reasons and when drafting their unique agreement they select from a menu of offers from NATO. This à la carte approach is what makes Partnership for Peace so attractive to so many nations with differing resources and it is mainly this fact that makes the concept so suitable and agreeable to Ireland.
The framework document outlines the objectives of Partnership for Peace as follows: to develop co-operative military relations with NATO for the purpose of joining planning, training and exercises; maintain the capability and readiness to contribute under the authority of the UN or OSCE; develop over the longer term forces better able to operate with those of the alliance; facilitate transparency in national defence budgets and to ensure democratic control of forces. On joining, nations agree an individual partnership programme, IPP, with NATO. The main focus of this is to outline the overall military aims and objectives of the partnership nation, set out the education and training requirements of the partnership nation and list the forces available from the partnership nation to participate in PfP operations and training.
In his speech the Minister outlined the basis for Ireland's individual partnership programme. It covers the areas of peacekeeping, which will be the central focus of our participation. The Minister said we are prepared to participate in and contribute to co-operation in the Partnership for Peace framework in such areas as inter-operability, planning for peacekeeping and peace support, communications, command and control, operational procedures, logistics and training. With regard to humanitarian operations, the Minister said we are interested in the development of co-operation and the exchange of experience and expertise in the area of humanitarian operations and that we have many insights and skills to share in the humanitarian area. Regrettably this appears to be merely an intellectual exchange and I call on him, when replying to this debate, to clarify if we will assist where required in natural or other disasters, because it is very important to ensure that our forces are in a position to honour whatever commitment we make. I  also call on him to clarify our intended role in the areas of search and rescue, co-operation in the protection of the environment and co-operation in marine matters, as briefly outlined in the presentation document, but not referred to in his speech.
With regard to available assets, the Minister states that an infantry battalion group could be available for Partnership for Peace activities subject to a national decision. This commitment will radically alter our approach to peacekeeping, training and preparation. It will no longer be acceptable to form a peacekeeping force from various and differing Army units for use on relatively short notice, as has been the case to date. To ensure that we can participate in a meaningful way with other member nations, it may be necessary for the Minister for Defence to examine the feasibility of establishing something on the lines of a peace corps. It will have to be an established unit consisting of members with a total commitment and for this to arise the Minister must have an adequate and suitable recruitment policy. He will also have to condense the six year purchasing programme for armoured personnel carriers to an 18 month period to ensure our battalion group will have suitable equipment to meet modern needs.
Since 1994 Partnership for Peace has evolved into a key European security institution. It now comprises 43 participants, including the 19 NATO members states. Its primary purposes are the protection and promotion of human rights, the safeguarding of freedom, justice and peace, the preservation of democracy, the upholding of international law and the fulfilment of the UN Charter obligations and the obligations of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. I could not think of a more suitable name than Partnership for Peace.
To date Ireland was the only significant state in western Europe which stood aloof from the partnership. PfP is not a back door to NATO, it is for non-NATO members, some of whom may wish to join NATO and others who have no intention of joining. Membership will not impinge on our neutrality. It is an agreement between Ireland and an organisation; it is not a military alliance. It is protective and not aggressive. It seeks to prevent rather than engage in hostilities. Membership of PfP can be revoked at any stage. That is a very important aspect. It is not binding for all time.
This debate is about the means by which we wish to display our willingness to make a contribution to safeguard the ideals we proclaim to believe in. It is about strengthening our contribution to European and world security, questioning our development as a nation and seeking to establish if we are mature enough to step outside the rhetoric of words, condemnation and judgment from afar and make a contribution to an age old problem.
Membership is in full accordance with the policy of military neutrality. It offers a selective and  flexible means of co-operation on military and peacekeeping matters to those who are anxious to break from the adversarial structures imposed by the confrontation between the two main military blocs surrounding the US and the former Soviet Union. Our interests are best protected and articulated by being part of and influencing the negotiations on the Continent's future rather than standing on the outside.
Membership of Partnership for Peace is an important step in our development as a nation. I welcome this motion and I look forward to the flying of the tricolour at the Partnership for Peace co-ordination cell at Mons.
Mr. Haughey: In December 1998 and in January this year the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated publicly for the first time that Ireland would be joining the NATO led Partnership for Peace in the second half of this year. This decision was, by any standard, a major shift in Irish foreign policy and no real explanation for this was given at the time. Little or no public debate took place prior to these announcements. However, the Fianna Fáil position, certainly up to 1997, was that it was opposed to Irish participation in NATO itself and in NATO led organisations, such as Partnership for Peace.
In March this year the Taoiseach admitted that he had changed his mind on this matter. There is no doubt that he and the Minister for Foreign Affairs were giving leadership on the issue. However, I was unhappy with the lack of debate on this fundamental change in policy and last January I submitted a motion for consideration by the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party to the effect that my party discuss Irish foreign policy, especially the proposal to join the NATO led Partnership for Peace. I was granted this debate on 4 March 1999 at which both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs outlined and explained their proposals in detail.
My dissatisfaction on this matter related to the absence of internal party debate up to that point. I am now satisfied, for reasons I will outline later, that it is right for Ireland to join Partnership for Peace at this time. I do not believe a referendum is necessary. A Fianna Fáil view that a consultative referendum could take place was not adopted by the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Government as circumstances changed and as our foreign policy evolved.
Mr. Haughey: A referendum on Partnership for Peace is not constitutionally necessary and I am not sure how a consultative referendum on this issue would work in practice, especially when legislation is not involved. Given that we have never held such a plebiscite, perhaps this is an issue the all-party committee on the Constitution might examine in the future. While accepting that a referendum will not take place on Partnership  for Peace, I am unhappy that the issue has not engaged the public mind as it should have. The Taoiseach referred to this yesterday on the Order of Business. It did not emerge as an issue in the European elections which, as usual, were dominated by personalities, national and even local issues.
It must be said that all the major political parties, including those involved in the previous Rainbow Coalition, have handled this matter badly since 1994. They have ducked and dived on the issue and, as a result, have raised public suspicions about the consequences of joining Partnership for Peace. We should be confident and always upfront about our foreign policy. We have carved out an important niche for ourselves in international affairs which is widely respected throughout the world, particularly in Third World countries. We have a respect throughout the world way beyond what one would expect on the basis of our population or resources. We have always been positive and pro-active and should continue to be so within a changing European Union and interdependent world generally.
At the centre of our foreign policy is neutrality. Once one mentions the word “neutrality” one is immediately asked to define it. The historical evolution of this principle in Ireland is of importance. Originally, neutrality represented an assertion of our independence from Britain. However, that is no longer the case. Neutrality is the avoidance of military and nuclear deterrence based alliances. I suggest that, because of our non-colonial past and our missionary tradition, it also involves the promotion of peace, justice and basic human rights throughout the world. For these reasons, we should be positive about our neutrality.
In addition, I would like to support the call by my colleague, Deputy Roche, for an upfront constitutional referendum on neutrality. This would allow for a national debate on the issue. Such a referendum would ensure that everyone knows exactly what we mean by neutrality and that it remains a fundamental principle that would not become just a pragmatic tool which could be jettisoned at any time. A constitutional referendum on neutrality would allow us make an unambiguous statement on participation in NATO. I do not believe that military neutrality is guaranteed in Bunreacht na hÉireann as it now stands. There is some doubt about whether a referendum is needed to allow us join NATO, should that ever be proposed.
Mr. Haughey: These doubts should be dealt with by way of a referendum. This is another issue which could be looked at by the all-party committee on the Constitution. If there were a Fine Gael Taoiseach, I have no doubt that moves  would be made to bring us closer to NATO and, ultimately, joining it. In those circumstances, a constitutional referendum at this time would be very welcome.
Neutrality is the underlying principle of Irish foreign policy. The Government's Presentation Document of Ireland for the Partnership for Peace programme states that we are committed to the development of a just and peaceful international society, based on the rule of law, democracy, respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Central to our foreign policy is our proud tradition in UN peacekeeping, which has been mentioned by so many speakers previously, disarmament, arms control, humanitarian interventions to prevent, for example, genocide and ethnic cleansing of which we have seen far too much in recent years, action against landmines – I welcome the comments by Deputy O'Kennedy in that regard – opposition to the export of arms, overseas development assistance and nuclear disarmament generally. As a country, we have been to the forefront on all these issues. All these objectives make up the totality of our overall concept of neutrality.
I believe that the further integration of the European Union should be monitored carefully in this country and in all member states. Previously we had referendums on EEC membership, the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty and the Amsterdam Treaty. In each of these referendums, the percentage of the electorate voting “yes” has decreased steadily. If another treaty is to be put to the Irish people involving further integration, it will have to be clearly explained and justified, if it is to be passed.
Defence issues are central to the Irish electorate's concern with regard to further integration of the European Union. The Amsterdam Treaty committed the EU to work to play a role in Petersberg tasks of humanitarian and rescue activities, peacekeeping and crisis management. This is certainly compatible with our neutrality and can be advanced through Partnership for Peace. However, it should be noted that the EU summit in Cologne in June 1999 agreed that a process should be initiated to incorporate Western European Union functions into the European Union. In addition, the German Government in particular wants to lay the foundations of a European defence union. I do not believe, however, that this will happen when one considers the negotiations which took place between member states prior to adopting the Amsterdam Treaty, particularly in the reflection group. In general at that time, a variety of states for different reasons insisted that major decisions in relation to defence should be ultimately left to each member state to decide for itself. I support fully that view.
Those who suggest that support for neutrality is decreasing should be challenged. This is not the case in my experience, particularly when I was  campaigning for a “yes” vote for the Amsterdam Treaty. For older people in particular, neutrality is an ideology but, for young people, neutrality is more a moral imperative and that imperative is to promote peace, justice and basic human rights throughout the world.
In recent weeks, many comments have been made about Partnership for Peace and its alleged links with NATO. It is suggested that membership of Partnership for Peace is a slippery slope for membership of NATO. The White Paper on Irish foreign policy states that Partnership for Peace is not a stand alone organisation. Others have stated that Partnership for Peace was launched by NATO in 1994 as part of that organisation's strategy of enlargement and adaptation and that Partnership for Peace is to be the vehicle for this widening process. Partnership for Peace is also believed by some to be one of a number of instruments of US foreign policy generally. In addition, it is also claimed that both the USA and, to a lesser extent, the UK are putting pressure on Ireland to join Partnership for Peace, given the help we have received from the US Administration in relation to the Northern Peace Process – it is “pay-back time”, to use that famous expression. The Minister for Foreign Affairs should take the opportunity to refute all these claims during the course of this debate.
At the end of the day, I am reassured that membership of NATO is completely different from involvement in Partnership for Peace, given that 24 non-members of NATO participate in it, including Russia and the other neutral states of Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. As a public representative, I regret that I receive few representations in relation to foreign policy issues. In general, the representations we receive as public representatives relate to bread and butter issues such health, social welfare, education and indeed to many issues involving local authorities. However, when I am contacted by constituents on foreign policy matters, in nearly all cases they are demanding humanitarian intervention by Ireland. The appalling atrocities committed in East Timor recently are an example of this.
To use that famous Irish expression, we cannot stand idly by in terms of humanitarian disasters and remain aloof. Membership of PfP will allow us continue to play our traditional role in these situations.
I wish to make one final point, following on what Deputy O'Kennedy said in relation to military officers involving themselves in debates such as this and making political statements in general. I too condemn that and think it is a dangerous precedent. Foreign and defence policy is made by the Government in the first instance and the Oireachtas, and military officers and the Defence Forces in general carry out and implement such policy. I fully support what Deputy O'Kennedy said in this regard.
After much contemplation I support the moves to join Partnership for Peace. It is the right thing  for Ireland to do at this time in terms of advancing our traditional role which we have played in international affairs, something we will continue to do proudly.
Mr. Dukes: I must begin by saying I deplore the efforts made by Deputies Haughey and O'Kennedy in suggesting that it is right to censor retired military officers who express a view on things on which they have expertise to share. Like any citizen, they are perfectly entitled to their right of freedom of speech, and it is too bad if this does not suit Fianna Fáil. I also deplore, and think it more worrying in terms of Deputy Haughey, this rather fascist idea that serving military officers – the current Chief of Staff – should in any way be restricted from saying in public what their requirements are in budgetary terms to carry out the job we give them. There is no other group in society which is prevented in such a way. We will be joined this evening by representatives of a very important group in society who have something to say about this. Deputy Haughey would not come to the House and suggest that representatives of the Garda Síochána should not be allowed say what they need in terms of equipment to carry out their job, and I do not think he should come here and suggest we should censor our Chief of Staff from saying what is involved for him and those with whom he works in meeting the job the Oireachtas and the Government give our Defence Forces.
I am glad the motion is before the House, although it should have been before the House much sooner. It would have been before the House much sooner if former colleagues of Deputies Quinn and De Rossa had not got off the leash, so to speak, in 1996. I am convinced that, at that stage, we would have seen a different view if a member of Democratic Left had not got off the leash and, without consultation with her party leader, announced she was going to vote against it.
Mr. Dukes: Her then party leader took fright and I think the Labour Party has to again find its equilibrium on this issue as a result. I am delighted we see another case of Fianna Fáil belatedly adopting Fine Gael policy. It did it before on economic policy and it worked. The party is now doing it in regard to PfP and that will work.
Mr. Dukes: The sad part is that we have had to wait so long. It is even sadder to see people like Deputy O'Kennedy and Deputy Haughey having  to come to the House to wriggle off the hooks on which they unnecessarily impaled themselves in previous years.
Mr. Dukes: Deputy O'Kennedy does it by thundering about the arms trade and Article 28.3.1 of the Constitution; Deputy Haughey, who can find no other reason for doing it, stands there and darkly wonders about what might happen in the context of neutrality if we had a Fine Gael Taoiseach. Deputy Haughey knows perfectly well that what he said is rubbish, and the only reason he raised the issue is that he is desperately looking around for some reason to get off the hook.
Mr. Dukes: —that he was a member of the Government that published the White Paper on foreign policy in 1996 and that the debate has been going on since 1994. The debate has been taking place up and down the country, and if Deputy Quinn was not aware of it, it was because he could not be bothered. The debate has been rich, varied and fruitful and has led us to where we are today and to the decision which I hope the House will take very soon.
Mr. Dukes: I have been involved with more of the real people of Ireland in this debate over the past five years than Deputy Ryan. I know what I am talking about; I have been part of the debate, as has Deputy Quinn.
Mr. Dukes: A decision on PfP is clearly within the constitutional ambit of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Government, something now admitted on the other side of the House. If there is need for an authority, a document published by The Peace and Neutrality Alliance – one of these mushrooms that grows up every time there is a debate about these issues, as there has been for quite some time – and handed to me in mid-June outside the gates of the Houses states:
The fact that the Labour Party, in its amendment to the motion before the House, proposes a plebi scite rather than a referendum is a clear recognition by the party that that is the case and constitutes a sad attempt by the party to get a little brand differentiation on an issue when it fundamentally agrees with what is being proposed.
Most of the reasons given for opposing membership of PfP are clearly fallacious, and I will go through some of them which have already been mentioned in the debate. The first objection is that PfP is a backdoor to NATO, that in joining PfP we will somehow be sucked into NATO. This is clearly not the case and I think that immediately emerges from any inspection of the presentation document. It also emerges very clearly from any consideration of the objectives of PfP. However, if there was any doubt about the matter, a reading of Article 28.3.1 of the Constitution would make it very clear that we could not undertake any mutual defence arrangement with any organisation without altering that Article which states: “War shall not be declared and the State shall not participate in any war save with the assent of Dáil Éireann”. It may even be that Article 15.6.1 and 15.6.2, which deals with the right to raise and maintain military or armed forces, would be infringed and would also need to be changed.
In passing I note that Mr. Gerry Adams says he is against joining PfP. I invite him to inspect Articles 15.6.1 and 15.6.2 of our Constitution, which were inserted deliberately by the late Éamon de Valera. They should be read once a day every day by all those involved in what I term a murderously slow bicycle race about arms decommissioning. Therefore, the allegation that PfP is a backdoor to NATO clearly has no foundation because our Constitution would require us to submit such a decision to the people.
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