A government TD has contradicted senior coalition colleagues by claiming that Ireland is “not a neutral country and we never have been”.
Backbencher Eoghan Murphy made the controversial claim during a Dáil debate on whether the issue should be enshrined in the Constitution, insisting there is “a wider world in which we operate” and that neutrality is not always “an intrinsic good”.
Responding to Sinn Féin draft legislation on the issue, the Dublin South East TD said while Irish neutrality has been official policy since the Second World War, the reality is that this country is not neutral and supports foreign actions in certain circumstances.
Mr Murphy said neutrality was not automatically “a noble good” and warned that if it was formally written into the Constitution, Ireland could “take no stance” on genocides when they occ- urred abroad.
Is neutrality a responsible position in international affairs? Is Ireland neutral? Speaking in todays's Dáil debate: https://t.co/WBxTS12tk4— Eoghan Murphy TD (@MurphyEoghan) March 6, 2015
The backbench TD’s comments were in stark contrast to other members of the Government who also spoke during the debate, including party colleague and Defence Minister Simon Coveney, who earlier insisted “we are neutral”.
Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan also argued it had been “long established” that Ireland was neutral.
However, opposition TDs claimed successive Irish governments had traded our neutrality for the chance to “sell sandwiches” to US army personnel travelling through Shannon airport to Middle East war zones.
Sinn Féin TDs Seán Crowe and Peadar Tóibín said that Ireland had allowed the facility to become “basically a US military airport, shrouded in secrecy”.
Independent TD Clare Daly said this country was in breach of the Hague convention over the matter.
She said officials claimed these soldiers were not carrying non-personal weapons and that allowing the journey is simply a follow-on from allowing aircraft to refuel while they travelled between the US and German bases on holidays since the 1950s. However, Ms Daly said the situations were completely different and it was clear soldiers were not travelling “to play golf” in Iraq or other nations.
The bill will now go to a second Dáil reading and will be debated again at a future date.
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