6 November 2003 Edition

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Government deliberately misinterprets law on UN primacy

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD on Tuesday accused the Dublin Government of deliberately misinterpreting the law in an effort to clear the way for Irish forces to join non-UN established international forces for overseas duties. Ó Snodaigh said there was a clear discrepancy between the Defence Amendment Act 1993 and the joint policy paper on Defence Forces and UN Peacekeeping Operations. He went on to say that this misinterpretation has serious implications for the policy of UN primacy.

Ó Snodaigh said: "The Defence Amendment Act 1993 defines an International United Nations Force as the only type of force with which the Irish Defence Forces may be despatched and as 'an international body established by the UN'. The policy paper from the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs extends their own definition to include missions 'under UN mandate including regional security missions authorised by the UN'."

But the two types of missions are neither identical nor interchangeable, said Ó Snodaigh, highlighting a serious discrepancy between the narrow Defence Amendment Act 1993 definition of an 'International United Nations Force' and the interpretation of that term provided by the Departments in their policy paper.

"It seems that - particularly with respect to their proposed participation in EU Rapid Reaction Force missions - the government is stretching the law to fit their policy," said the Sinn Féin TD.

"With respect to the policy of UN primacy, we must remember that the UN was formed to render regional standing military alliances obsolete. By foreseeing Irish participation in missions "outsourced" to regional military alliances it is endorsing a reality that ultimately serves to undermine UN primacy, not strengthen it. As such it violates explicit commitments to UN primacy made in the Programme for Government.

"It is not acceptable that government policy not only operates outside the law, it violates its own previously stated policy on Irish neutrality and UN primacy. However, today the Minister confirmed that this situation will continue.

"For our part, Sinn Féin supports full UN primacy and participation in UN peacekeeping missions, in keeping with our policy of Positive Neutrality in Action. On this basis, we will support the Government's motion in the Dáil to deploy Irish Defence Forces to Liberia as part of UNMIL. However, as far as Sinn Féin is concerned, any IDF participation in non-UN-established forces is outside the law as it is currently on the books."

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