Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: How will Government protect Irish neutrality?

Pringle: How will Government protect Irish neutrality?

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, wants the Government to explain how they will protect Irish neutrality in relation to the European Defence Agency.

In a Dáil debate yesterday (Thursday) on a motion on the European Defence Agency, Deputy Pringle also expressed his concerns over the role of private-sector interests, concerns he raised when the agency was debated in the Dáil in 2019.

Deputy Pringle said: “I spoke during that debate over two years ago. I obviously spoke against the motion and at the time said, ‘Militarisation, EU defence integration and the overall global militarisation agenda is being pushed and shaped by private-sector interests.’  That statement remains true today.”

The deputy said there needs to be more clarity around the motion.

Deputy Pringle said: “I have linked in with some colleagues and activists on this motion and was informed that things have been very quiet recently. There is an aura of opaqueness around this area that is not acceptable and does nothing to build trust.”

He said the chairman of the EU Military Committee, General Claudio Graziano, told the Financial Times that the 2017 launch of a multibillion-euro fund for military equipment and tech research was a step in the right direction, “even if not as fast as I would like”, while calling for a greater focus on technology and expanding international maritime co-operation, the latter being one of the PESCO tasks the Irish government has signed up to.

Deputy Pringle said: “General Graziano’s remarks come as many EU nations ponder how to pay for the vast debts run up as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Military budgets across the EU are now likely to be slashed to help cover the costs of the health crisis, according to the defence publication Janes.”

He said General Graziano also noted “that the EU would have to bolster its maritime security powers to help counter China’s claims to disputed territories in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. General Graziano said the EU needs to play a greater role in the area with a ‘more systematic presence’. So, can we look forward to the Irish navy heading to the Taiwan Strait to protect ‘our’ interests?”

The EU has also approved its first defence research budget, estimated at more than €7 billion for 2021-2027, the deputy said.

Deputy Pringle asked: “What exactly is our role in all of this? Do we participate at EU defence meetings? What is our contribution to the EU defence budget? How does our government protect our neutrality in this situation? Perhaps the minister and government can explain that as well.

“So much money. What a waste,” he said.