Participation in new EU Security and Defence initiative undermines Irish Neutrality and Peacebuilding Role

The cabinet’s decision today to apply for membership of the European Union’s Permanent Structured Cooperation on Security and Defence (PESCO) is a “sad day for Ireland’s neutrality and peacebuilding role” said Senator Alice-Mary Higgins who debated the issue with Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe in Seanad Éireann today.

 “Permanent Structured Cooperation on Security and Defence with nations who are not neutral is not compatible with our neutrality. While there may well be scope within the EU treaties for such cooperation – those treaties are not our only frame, we also have the frame of our own state and the frame of the UN” said Senator Higgins.

“Our long standing policy of neutrality is not only something we must respect, it is also something which has earned us respect internationally –Ireland’s multilateralism is grounded in our neutrality. It has underpinned our reputation as honest brokers, our effectiveness within the UN and our outstanding contribution to peacebuilding - from the Irish Minister Frank Aiken who drove the first nuclear non-proliferation treaty to the new UN nuclear weapons ban treaty signed by minister Coveney in September. I myself was present when Ireland hosted the negotiations that delivered a historic global ban on cluster munitions.”   

Issues such as human trafficking or cybercrime are all areas where cooperation can be facilitated through our civilian policing systems. They are not a justification for PESCO and its military commitments - including a commitment to increased defence spending.

 The answers to the complex global challenges we face today does not lie in militarisation. It is peacebuilding which is most needed in hawkish times. Yet in recent years Europe has deeply neglected the work of peacebuilding within and between nations. 

“It is notable that peace, peacekeeping or peacebuilding are not mentioned at all in the very lengthy PESCO Notification.”

 “Rather than followers on a slippery slope towards ever deeper militarisation and a possible European Army, Ireland has a chance to be a leader.  We can and should be beacons for a renewed focus on peacebuilding and constructive diplomacy within Europe and the wider world. It is my hope that the Dáil will vote to reject this new direction in Irish Foreign Policy" 




Note to Editors: Following today's cabinet decision, Ireland's application to join PESCO will also need to be agreed by a decision of the Dáil.

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