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1 December 2015 Edition

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Mali used to sabotage Irish neutrality

'Islamic State' attacks on France exploited by Fine Gael leader

• Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Mali is a former French colony where French forces are propping up a regime which seized power in a 2012 coup

FINE GAEL AND LABOUR continued their policy of eroding Irish neutrality as Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that he was willing to deploy extra Irish troops to Mali in order to ‘free-up’ French forces following the horrific gun and bomb attacks by the so-called Islamic State in Paris which killed 130 people on 13 November.

Following on from their allowing US warplanes and munitions through Shannon Airport and Irish airspace, the Fine Gael/Labour Government is now looking to indirectly aid France in carrying out military actions in the Middle East.

Enda Kenny made the announcement after France invoked the Lisbon Treaty’s ‘mutual defence clause’ which requires EU member states to come to the aid of a fellow member state that has been attacked.

Irish Government plans to deploy additional troops to Mali – a former French colony where French forces are propping up a regime which seized power in a 2012 coup – have been opposed by Sinn Féin and other parties and Independents on the Left. Most of the French forces in the region are there as part of a French military intervention force while others are taking part in a UN-mandated mission.

Mali has been gripped by civil war since 2012 following an uprising by ethnic Tuaregs demanding independence for the north of the country known as Azawad. A subsequent coup by hardline Mali Army officers caused chaos, with much of the north of the country falling to the Tuaregs. Al Qaeda-aligned militant groups such as Ansar Dine exploited this turmoil to seize some towns and villages.

As recently as 2013, the office of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide at the United Nations said it was “deeply disturbed about serious allegations of human rights violations by the Malian Army” and warned that such incidents “could constitute atrocity crimes”.

Mary Lou McDonald TD said Sinn Féin would oppose any attempt to deploy more Irish forces to Mali  to bolster the ten already there. The decision to deploy any more than 12 Irish Defence Forces soldiers requires Dáil approval.

Speaking on RTÉ TV’s The Week in Politics, Mary Lou noted that the Malian regime has been implicated in horrific human rights abuses and said Ireland should not be forced into military alliances:

“Being neutral isn’t about sitting on your hands and doing nothing,” she said. “It’s about recognising Ireland’s past and our experience of having been colonised and what we can bring to the table – diplomatically and politically. Not tagging along as a bit-player with the big boys.”

Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan told the AGM of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) on 21 November that the deployment of Irish troops to release French forces would indirectly involve Ireland in conflict.

“Irish neutrality is being systematically eroded by current and previous governments. Irish participation and financial support for the European Defence Agency, our involvement in the Rapid Reaction Force and the continued use of Shannon Airport by US warplanes involved in several conflicts combine to show that Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil have, at best, a flippant attitude to neutrality,” she said.

Jim Roche of the Irish Anti-War Movement said he is “very worried” by the news and is also of the view that it would undermine Irish neutrality. He said that if the deployment goes ahead:

“Our troops will effectively be helping France to bomb groups in Syria and create more terror and refugees.”  

Lynn Boylan went on to praise the work of Irish peacekeepers serving on UN missions and, in recent months, the work of the Irish Naval Service in rescuing thousands of refugees in the Mediterranean:

“This is the type of work our Defence Forces should be doing. They should not be involved, directly or indirectly, in conflict or in the facilitation of conflict.”

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