Neutrality stance to come under fire

DEFENCE Minister Michael Smith will come under fire from young Fianna Fáil members today over the Government’s neutrality stance.

The use of Shannon Airport by the US military is expected to be a contentious issue during the debate on the future of Ireland’s neutrality at the Fianna Fáil national youth conference.

Ógra Fianna Fáil leaders say the session will feature pro and anti viewpoints on neutrality and military alliances being voiced.

Irish Anti War Movement treasurer and NUI Maynooth sociology lecturer Dr Colin Coulter and Boston College and UCD lecturer in US security policy Tim Lynch, along with Mr Smith, will address the debate entitled: Can Ireland Stay Neutral in the 21st Century?

Not normally regarded as being as militant as the youth wings of other political parties, the neutrality debate is set to split the ranks of Ógra Fianna Fáil.

Ógra cathaoirleach Michael Moynihan said the debate was timely in terms of the international situation and the crisis in Iraq. Although Ireland is neutral and the issue has recently been played out in the Nice referendum, Deputy Moynihan said it was no harm to find out people’s views.

The conference will also be addressed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen, and Europe Minister Dick Roche will speak in a debate on Ireland’s political future.

Training workshops will be held to brief potential local election candidates. The workshop will be addressed by Deputy Moynihan and FF deputy national organiser John Mullen.

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