Debate Denied in Seanad as Government ram through “dangerous” new military agreement

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: “Peace or peace-keeping not mentioned once in PESCO document”

Today in Seanad Éireann, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins called for an urgent debate on the Government decision to join the Permanent Structured Cooperation, PESCO. This call for debate on a "dangerous and rushed decision which will deeply undermine Ireland's neutrality and crucial peacebuilding role" was voted down by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and the Seanad will not be allowed to have their say before the decision is made. 

Speaking today, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said “I am appalled and deeply disappointed that the Fine Gael government, with support from Fianna Fáil, have chosen to steer our foreign policy in a radically different, and I believe dangerous, new direction." 

Senator Higgins continued, “This disgraceful decision has been rammed through the Houses of the Oireachtas without adequate opportunity to consider or debate the enormous implications of signing. The Dáil was notified of the vote for the first time on Monday and my request for a Seanad debate prior to signing was denied. Crucially, the public, 4 out of 5 of whom strongly support neutrality, have been denied the chance for any consultation or debate on this very important issue." 

"Instead the public have been patronised by claims from the Taoiseach and others that PESCO was already discussed or somehow agreed to under Lisbon. Let us be clear, the Lisbon debate contained high level assurances that there would be no push to militarisation and that Ireland could choose to maintain our unique role as a neutral peacebuilding nation. That choice is now about to be thrown away as we sign up to a binding "permanent" contract which commits us, for example, to ever increasing military spending.” 

“PESCO will see our military spending increase by billions and yet defence forces personnel themselves may see little of the badly-needed improvement in their conditions as PESCO also affects how that money is spent, for example, on massively increased spending on weapons, driving an industry which Ireland had previously challenged through our important work on disarmament. It was Ireland who drove the first nuclear non-proliferation treaty and I was there when we successfully negotiated a ban on cluster munitions. Our credibility in this area will be undermined by joint procurement contracts with former producers and users of such weapons.” 

“The pride which so many of us feel in our Irish army is due to their role as UN peacekeepers. It is notable peace, peacekeeping and peacebuilding are not mentioned once in the PESCO notification. In signing up to this structure, Ireland is moving away from both our proud history and our future potential in hawkish time when the world so badly needs diplomacy and peacemakers. 

We know the importance of the work that goes into peace from our own experience and it does seem like extraordinarily indelicate timing to be ramping up militarisation at a time when our own Good Friday Agreement is at the centre of Brexit negotiations. 


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