Protests planned over 'entirely inappropriate' docking of Dutch naval vessels in Cork

In the Dáil on Thursday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the Government has "no plans to join NATO or any other military alliance"
Protests planned over 'entirely inappropriate' docking of Dutch naval vessels in Cork

Edward Horgan of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance said that the group will protest in Cobh when HNLMS Karel Doorman, the largest ship in service in the Netherlands navy, docks at the cruise terminal. File picture; Larry Cummins

The docking of foreign naval ships in Irish ports is merely an example of friendly relations with neighbours and does not impact Irish neutrality, the Department of Defence says.

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance (Pana) says that it will protest the arrival of four Dutch naval vessels to Cork this weekend, with campaigners saying that it represents the "death of Irish neutrality by a thousand cuts".

Edward Horgan of Pana said that the group will protest in Cobh when HNLMS Karel Doorman, the largest ship in service in the Netherlands navy, docks at the cruise terminal, and in Cork when three other Dutch ships arrive.

"The vision of democracy, international law and morality is being supplanted in Ireland, Europe, and the wider world by the abuses of military power," Mr Horgan said.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said that the move was inappropriate. "It's entirely inappropriate to have Dutch warships present in Irish ports. It's yet another breach of what remains of Irish neutrality."

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Defence said that the visits, which have happened in the past, are normal and come with stipulations such as not carrying nuclear weapons or engaging in military exercises.

“Visits from foreign naval vessels are a long-standing and common practice in Ireland and worldwide. It is therefore normal and welcome for foreign naval vessels to visit Irish ports. Foreign naval vessels are only granted permission to visit Irish ports on condition that they meet the necessary policy stipulations. 

"In particular, these require that naval vessels visiting Irish ports do not carry nuclear weapons and do not engage in military exercises. These are the standard stipulations for any naval vessel to visit an Irish port.

"Ireland’s longstanding policy of neutrality is characterised by non-membership of military alliances and means that we do not participate in common or mutual defence arrangements. In this context, port visits like this one are simply a reflection of our engagement and friendly relations with our neighbours. The Irish Naval Service regularly visits foreign ports in the same manner.”

In the Dáil on Thursday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the Government has "no plans to join NATO or any other military alliance".

"We are involved in security and defence co-operation through PESCO with the European Union. We also we co-operate with NATO through the partnership for peace programme and have done for a very long time," he said.

In an earlier round of questions, Defence Minister Simon Coveney said that Ireland's presence in an EU training mission for Ukrainian troops "is not a breach of neutrality, just like us providing funds through the European peace facility to help Ukrainian defence forces protect their people is not a breach of neutrality either".

Mr Murphy had said that Ireland was engaged in "a full-spectrum military training mission of an army that is involved in a war".

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