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10 April 2003 Edition

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Irish neutrality a lie

The Dublin government was urged in the Dáil on Wednesday to come clean and admit that Irish neutrality is a lie.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh was responding to comments made by Minister Brian Cowen in response to a question on Ireland's neutrality in the Dáil.

The Dublin government has claimed that it has not breached Irish neutrality but don't the Irish people have a right to know exactly how the government defines neutrality and whether it even exists?

For many weeks now, Ó Snodaigh has been attempting to conduct what he calls a neutrality audit. He has asked a number of different ministers a range of questions designed to ascertain to what extent Irish so-called neutrality is being breached by facilitating foreign military aircraft and ships on their way to war. So far, the government has refused to provide a comprehensive account.

On Wednesday, the minister refused point blank to answer specific questions.

However, he did acknowledge that the government, alone amongst the international community, has a different definition of military neutrality to everybody else.

He specifically said that he does not accept the Hague Convention definition of neutrality. Rather than provide the government's alternative definition, he claimed that in Ireland's case it was best to keep it vague.

In an attempt to try and confuse the matter further, he mischievously suggested that a UN Charter had since negated the 1907 Hague Convention in terms of defining the rights and duties of neutral states.

It is clear from that response, or the lack of it, that the 26-County government has long since abandoned any desire or wish to respect and defend what most people regard as a positive aspect of Irish foreign policy.

It is time the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs came clean and explicitly admit that Irish neutrality is a lie, and has been a lie under successive Fianna Fáil governments.

The time for hiding behind evasive answers and misinformation has long past. It is time to stop treating the people with contempt and to confirm what is the reality - that is, the 26 Counties is not a neutral state.

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