Thirty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution (Neutrality) Bill 2013: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)
Friday, 6 March 2015
Dáil Éireann Debate
[Deputy Clare Daly: ] Obviously, the Government is worried that if the amendment were to be included in the Constitution, it might clip its wings somewhat, the actions of the State and its ability to kowtow and breach our neutrality. I am not surprised that Fianna Fáil supported the Government because WikiLeaks was very clear in exposing its role. Former Deputy Dermot Ahern came into the House and gave repeated assurances that Ireland was not involved in rendition, but we found out later that he was going to the Americans to express his sincerely held belief we were involved, through the use of Shannon Airport, in that project. We will be pursuing these issues and the complicity of certain sections of the Irish establishment in actively breaching our neutrality.
It is difficult to see how this request could be acceded to. The islands mentioned [Tory Island was also mentioned as a location] are as much part of the national territory as Stephen's Green. It is known that we give permission for the landing in our territory of unarmed military planes engaged on peaceful duty, e.g. US army planes carrying US personnel for leave in Ireland or in transit to the USA. It is quite another thing to give permission not only for aircraft engaged on warlike exercises to land on our territory but also to use our territory as a refuelling base for such exercises.
Traditionally and in the 1950s, US troops went on their holidays to their garrison bases in Germany not involved in conflict, but that changed in 1999. The scale of movement of US personnel through Shannon Airport gives rise to no other conclusion other than that they are involved in military exercises. The total last year alone was 55,000. Over 600 exemptions were sought for military aircraft to land at Shannon Airport, or almost two flights a day, while over 700 exemptions were sought to carry weaponry on chartered aircraft transiting troops to the Middle East to the slaughter and horror under way there.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Seán Kenny): The next speaker is Deputy Shane Ross who is entitled to ten minutes, but I ask him to confine his remarks to four or five minutes to allow time for others who wish to speak.
Deputy Shane Ross: I will try to do so. I have enjoyed debates such as this for many years. There is a repetitiveness about them that people who claim to be the champions of neutrality are more vociferous than others. I agree with much of what Deputy Clare Daly said that there was a time when the voice of Ireland was respected overseas and that voice was respected mainly because neutrality had an identity. We were respected for saying things which were seen as courageous, if unpopular, but that day has gone. I do not like to personalise my comments, but they are fair. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, has been in office for a very short time, but I cannot, for the life of me, remember a single thing he has said since he took office. He is the greatest advertisement for the abolition of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. There is nothing being said which would offend anybody in the world-----
Deputy Shane Ross: -----but he has even lower thresholds than I have. That is all I can say about the matter. It is regrettable and we should take note of it, but I ask why this has happened. Why is Ireland frightened to raise its voice against anything? Whether Deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly are right, surely the Minister should have expressed concern about the apparent activities of the United States at Shannon Airport. Instead, he is silent and we are cowed. We are not a neutral nation; we are a neutered nation. We are a nation that hides behind others, seeks consensus and then makes statements in line with it, whether it be the European Union, the United States or the United Kingdom. One thing is certain - because of this and the former Government's policy, we are now a satellite nation. We are a satellite nation one day of the United States, one day of the United Kingdom and another of the European Union, but we are certainly not an independent neutral nation the word of which is listened to around the world. That is something I regret.
There used to be a time when Heads of State and Government came to address this House. I refer to visits by John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Francois Mitterand, Helmut Kohl, Tony Blair and Nelson Mandela. Such visits ended about the year 2000. If the Minister of State were to look at the photographs on the walls of Leinster House, he would find there was a spate of visits at a time when Ireland was respected. They do not come to address this House any more-----
Deputy Shane Ross: -----because they would probably be interrupted by a Minister who did not know what he was talking about. They do not come because they have no respect for what Ireland says among the nations of the world because it says virtually nothing. I understand fully the reasons for this, but let us be realistic.
I read in the newspaper this morning that last year our nation had received more in foreign direct investment from the United States than any other nation in the world. Of course, this exerts pressures and it is important, as is the economy. If multinational US companies are investing here, it has an effect. However, let us recognise the fact that we are bowing to American pressure, whether tacit or real, because we are economically dependent on the multinationals. That is what the Government should recognise and it should admit that this is the reason for its silence.
We are equally cowardly in our foreign relations, as demonstrated by our silence on the Greek issue. In fact, it is not silence but rather a situation where we are frightened to stick up for the rights of small nations, as we used to do. Let us not pretend that we are involved in aggressive neutrality because we are not. We have been neutered. If we are not a satellite nation of one block, we are a satellite of another. It is to our shame and that of the Government that it is not admitting to this today.
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