Taoiseach to reiterate Ireland's 'red line' stance on neutrality

Taoiseach to reiterate Ireland's 'red line' stance on neutrality

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will stress Ireland's "red line" stance on neutrality to other EU leaders today during a key post-Brexit vote meeting focussing on the refugee crisis and growing talk of an EU army, by Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter in Bratislava.

The Fine Gael leader re-iterated Ireland's position this morning, despite French president Francois Hollande and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker both urging increased combined defences from potential terrorist attacks.

Speaking as he arrived in Bratislava, Slovakia, for the crucial meeting on future plans for the EU in light of the Brexit vote, Mr Kenny said Ireland will continue to "contribute" to addressing the issue.

However, he twice said this country has a "red line" position on neutrality which cannot be ignored.

"Ireland has always contributed, taking into account the red line issues we have in terms of neutrality, to European co-operation and we will continue to do so taking those factors into account," he said.

The EU heads of state meeting is part of a series of behind-closed-doors talks between EU members in recent months in order to address a range of issues affecting the future of Europe caused in part by June's Brexit vote.

However, while the economy, job growth and the continuing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean are among the issues to be discussed, suggestions of a future EU army are likely to dominate proceedings.

Speaking on his way into the meeting this morning, French president Francois Hollande said EU member states must accept that Europe needs to be able to defend itself from attacks and not rely on help from the US.

"There is no continent, there is no union if there is no defence of our values and interests. France is making a major effort in terms of European defence, but she can’t do it alone," he said.

While the comment was contradicted by Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė, who said she “never heard somebody is proposing to create a European army”, it mirrors recent suggestions by European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker.

In his annual address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Juncker said he is in favour of a plan to set up a 100,000-strong volunteer European “youth corps” to help with defence and security measures - a remark one Strasbourg official said underlines the political bloc's current "existential crisis".

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