Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has criticised the Government’s move to fundamentally alter Ireland’s foreign policy and status as a neutral state. Teachta Crowe said that it was particularly ill-timed given the crisis our Defence Forces have been experiencing in retention and recruitment.

Teachta Crowe said:

“The world needs more honest brokers like a neutral Ireland. We have never been a coloniser, have never invaded another country and are respected as peacekeepers and peacemakers. We have experienced conflict and division on our own island and have practical experience of building peace. This has allowed us to do vital work, including nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, and humanitarianism.

“The Tánaiste, Micheál Martin, is not renowned for his speed and action on any issues but the triple lock is to be dropped without delay, we are told. Strangely, he only said last November that he did not believe in removing it. Thankfully, opinion polls suggest that Irish people get it and treasure our heritage as a neutral country. When it has been tested by EU treaties in the past, those treaties have been rejected until assurances have been given that neutrality would remain. Now, this Government wants to bin those assurances despite their own manifesto commitments to neutrality and the triple lock.

“The Good Friday Agreement and the peace process is a positive example to all those seeking an end to intractable conflicts. Being neutral does not mean we refuse to choose a side; it means we choose the side of human rights, of peace, and not with those who would wage war on innocent civilians.

“It is not good enough that the Government would use the Irish Defence Forces as a political bargaining chip when they have singularly failed to address the very serious problem in retention and recruitment that the Army, the Naval Service and Air Corps have been experiencing for decades now.

“The Defence Forces are now 2,000 members under what it considered the most basic requirement and 4,000 under what they should be to be fully operational. We are struggling to fulfil our obligations to current UN missions. We should not diminish our status as UN peacekeepers. Any change to Ireland’s neutral status, particularly the removal of the triple lock, has to go to a referendum.”