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TOPICAL ISSUE DEBATE – 26th June 2013

Deputy Sean O’Fearghail, T.D., “The need for the Minister for Defence to make a statement on the government's intentions with regard to the Triple Lock”
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Response by the Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, TD,
on behalf of Minister Shatter
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

The Minister has asked me to apologise to the House for his unavailability to address this issue this afternoon.

Ireland has accorded central importance to the United Nations since it became a member in 1955. Within the UN system, Ireland has supported effective international action in areas such as disarmament, peacekeeping, development and human rights.

Article 24 of the UN Charter provides that: “Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf”. Ireland is a strong supporter of the UN and in accordance with Article 24 of the UN Charter respects the primary responsibility of the UN Security Council in relation to the maintenance of International Peace and Security. The existence of such UN mandates confers legitimacy on, and acceptance of, particular peace support operations by groups engaged in conflict and by host States.

Deployment of Defence Forces personnel on all peace support missions is subject to what is referred to as “the triple lock” – i.e. Government, Dáil and UN approval. However, personnel may be deployed for training, for humanitarian operations and for other such reasons, under the authority of the Government in accordance with the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006, which formalised arrangements in this regard.

Participation in overseas peacekeeping missions is a key element of Ireland’s foreign policy. It has been an important dimension in meeting Ireland’s international obligations as a member of the UN and the EU. It has also been a key factor in Ireland’s influence and credibility in the international arena and in advancing Ireland’s foreign policy interests.

Unfortunately, despite the ongoing efforts of the UN and other international organisations involved in conflict resolution, the continuing need for peacekeepers has never been greater. With the increasing use of more robust Chapter VII missions/operations, in the past number of years, the UN has turned to regional organisations, including the European Union, the African Union and NATO, amongst others, to undertake and lead missions on its behalf. The European Union, the African Union and NATO, are now major players in UN peacekeeping. Chapter VIII of the UN Charter has always provided for the use of Regional Organisations to undertake operations on behalf of the UN. Ireland has contributed peacekeepers to many of these regionally led missions in furtherance of its commitment to the UN and to UN peacekeeping in particular.

Ireland’s approach to international security is characterised, inter alia, by our willingness to participate in peace support operations throughout the world and by our commitment to achieving collective security through the United Nations, in particular. To date, the Defence Forces have served and continue to serve in a wide range of UN mandated multinational operations led by the UN, EU and NATO.

My colleague, the Minister for Defence, is aware that successive Governments have made it clear that the “triple lock” provisions, as provided for in the Defence Acts, would continue to apply in relation to service abroad by contingents of the Irish Defence Forces.

Ireland’s policy in this regard was most recently underpinned by the adoption by the people of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. Ireland’s act of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was reinforced by the associated national declaration which states “that the participation of contingents of the Irish Defence Forces in overseas operations, including those carried out under the European common security and defence policy requires (a) the authorisation of the operation by the Security Council or the General Assembly of the United Nations, (b) the agreement of the Irish Government, and (c) the approval of Dáil Éireann, in accordance with Irish law.”

The White Paper on Defence, which was published in 2000, has provided the policy framework for Defence for the past thirteen years. In the period since its publication there have been significant changes in the defence and security environment and the defence policy framework has continued to evolve. In this context, the Government decided that there is a requirement to prepare a new White Paper on Defence. This will provide the policy framework for Defence for the next decade.
As part of this process, the Minister for Defence initiated the preparation of a Green Paper on Defence. The Green Paper is intended to inform and to stimulate a mature and informed debate about Ireland’s defence policy. When published, it will initiate a broad public consultative process, which will provide for members of the public and interest groups to input their views as part of the process of developing the new White Paper on Defence.
The Minister for Defence hopes to publish the Green Paper and initiate the White Paper public consultative process in the coming weeks. It is anticipated that the new White Paper on Defence will be approved by Government and published before the end of June 2014.

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