Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has challenged the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, over the Irish Government’s passive support for creating a standing EU Army and its support for EU migration policies which are failing refugees.

Crowe was speaking in the Dáil during statements on the European Council meeting which will take place this Thursday and Friday.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Two of the key issues at the next Council meeting will be the funding to facilitate a standing EU Army and migration. I believe the EU’s priorities on these issues are all wrong.

“The EU says it has no spare money for positive social and economic programmes such as youth unemployment projects, community regeneration, improving public services like health care, but it has now announced that it will spend €1.5 billion a year on regressive military project to ultimately facilitate a standing EU army.

“The Taoiseach is also signing off on this while a large proportion of our Defence Forces are reliant on lousy wages and on social welfare top ups, and are living in substandard accommodations.

“Any EU policy which aims to increase EU militarisation is a potential threat to Irish neutrality and the Irish Government should veto these plans.”

Deputy Crowe continued:

“Yesterday was world refugee day and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have confirmed that at least 1,828 people having died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year.

“The preventable deaths of men, women and children in the Mediterranean is unacceptable and a stain on the EU and Member States.

“It is also reported that the conclusions of this Council meeting will include support and training for the Libyan naval coastguard. However those stopped by the Libyan coastguard are then taken to any number of detention centres, where they are more than likely to face abuse and exploitation.

“I have seen NGO reports, read personal stories, and seen photo evidence of the conditions of these so-called migrant centres. These centres do not meet any humane standard at all and those imprisoned in them have their human rights brutally violated by armed militias.

“I am calling on the Government to ensure no refugee is returned to Libya and placed in these centres, and to oppose the EU’s so-called migration compacts with five African states which tie EU aid and trade to stemming flows of refugees. This approach is not working, is counterproductive, and morally wrong.”