Greens demand answers on arms trade role

THE Greens put pressure on their Government partners last night to come clean on the country’s involvement in the global arms trade.

Groups like Amnesty International have expressed concern at repeated delays by the Department of Enterprise in releasing a detailed study of exports that can be used for military use, which it is legally required to produce under a reform of the system.

However, the department has failed to produce reports on the operation of the Control of Exports Act for 2008 or 2009, meaning the public does not know to whom equipment has been sold.

Green Party chairperson Dan Boyle said he wanted an explanation for the foot-dragging, but did not believe it was down to suppression of information.

“We’d like to know the reason for the delay. I wouldn’t like to believe there was any suppression of information, and I don’t think that is happening,” the senator said.

Figures show export licences for “dual use” equipment soared to €6.7 billion last year, while those for strictly military goods were constant at €32.5 million.

With Amnesty and the Labour Party estimating that around 40%-50% of “dual use export” licenses represent technology that can be used in military systems, that would mean the Irish arms trade was worth around €3bn in 2009.

Amnesty’s Fiona Crowley said the public would not know what type of equipment was being exported until the Government released the long awaited breakdown reports required under the 2008 act.

“This is just not good enough. The legislation was passed in May 2008 and we have still not seen any reports. We found out in the past that material from Ireland was being used in Apache helicopters being deployed in the Palestinian territories, and in armoured vehicles used by paramilitaries in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time Amnesty was highlighting the use of torture and unlawful killing in those countries.

“We do not have a problem with dual use exports, we just want to make sure there is transparency so we can check what is being exported and make sure it does not go to countries with poor human rights records.”

Components, software or chemicals which can be used by military or defence forces as well as civilian commercial firms, are usually exported under “dual use” licences.

The Department of Enterprise said the study would be in the public domain soon. “The report has been prepared and the minister will bring it to Government shortly before publication.”


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