Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Government must ensure public has a say on neutrality

Pringle: Government must ensure public has a say on neutrality

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has pressed Government to ensure the public has a say on the issue of Ireland’s neutrality as he slammed plans for a public forum on the important issue.

Addressing the Dáil on Thursday, Deputy Pringle said: “After reassurances from the Tánaiste that the forum’s intention would not be to encourage a change in Ireland’s military neutrality policy, it is now clear that that is exactly what this government is trying to do.

“This government is chipping away at our neutrality bit by bit and should they say any different, I would like to refer the Tánaiste to his own party’s 2020 manifesto which states: ‘Fianna Fáil is dedicated to Ireland’s policy of military neutrality’ and ‘Fianna Fáil reaffirms its commitment to the retention of the Triple Lock of UN mandate or authorisation, Government and Dáil approval’.

“It is amazing to watch the Tánaiste make such an incredible u-turn over the last three years. Not only is he chipping away at neutrality, but at Fianna Fáil policies and election promises. In the Tánaiste’s speech, he criticised both neutrality and the Triple Lock, questioning whether it is fit for purpose.”

The deputy was speaking on Thursday during Statements on the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy.

Deputy Pringle said: “I am absolutely horrified by the Tánaiste’s opening statement – some of it was just pure scaremongering. The idea that we should abandon our neutrality in order to protect our fibre optic cables is just ridiculous.” He said: “Suggesting that there is a connection between the HSE cyberattacks and Ireland’s neutrality is just absurd.”

The deputy said: “The Tánaiste has suggested that we are withdrawing from international relations and becoming an insular country, but this is far from the truth. Why would the fact that we value neutrality mean that we were withdrawing from international relations? It would, in fact, increase our credibility in international relations.

“If we were proactive, we could contribute immensely to peace talks and ceasefires around the world. And if we become just a minor cog in the EU war machine we would just become that, a minor cog in the EU war machine, and would have no input on the international stage in terms of neutrality or anything else.”

He said: “We cannot allow Europe to bully us into compromising our neutrality.”

Deputy Pringle said the Tánaiste also gave a very weak reason for this conversation being held through a public forum rather than a Citizens’ Assembly, which the deputy has called for.

The deputy said: “The reality is that the Government is afraid of the answer it would get from the people if it allowed the proposal for a Citizens’ Assembly or a referendum to be debated by them, because the public would back neutrality very strongly and forcefully.”

He also raised concerns about the chair of the forum, Louise Richardson, “who has in the past made questionable justifications for US involvement in Chile and Cuba as well as questionable justifications for involvement in Iraq. Is this really someone we can trust to chair a forum that will debate our longstanding policy on neutrality?

“Indeed, in the Tánaiste’s speech today he mentioned that Russia has vetoed the Security Council – which they have, there’s no doubt about that. But what the Tánaiste forgot to mention was that since 1975 the US has vetoed the Security Council over 110 times. But there’s no mention of that and we have nothing to say about that at all,” he said.

Deputy Pringle said he was also concerned with the Tánaiste’s vagueness when discussing the outcome of the forum and asked Minister Eamon Ryan to answer this question in his closing remarks: “Will you ensure that the forum’s recommendations are published publicly and will you ensure that we will be able to discuss the recommendations in this chamber?

“This is an issue of national importance and I urge you, Minister, to ensure that the public has a say on it,” he said.

Minister Ryan began his remarks by responding to Deputy Pringle’s question: “I absolutely believe we should be publishing recommendations and bringing it back for debate in this chamber.”