Dáil Éireann Speech by Brendan Ryan TD, on Ireland’s participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)

07 December 2017

Speech by Brendan Ryan TD

Labour Party Whip and Spokesman on Defence

Motion on the proposed approval by Dail Éireann of Ireland’s participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)

Dáil Éireann, 7 December 2017

Taoiseach, we are asking you today to halt a vote on PESCO as we have not had enough national debate on the matter.

Its impact could fundamentally alter Ireland’s sovereign defence policy and history of neutrality for decades to come.

It is too important a matter to rush through a vote as you are attempting to do in this manner this week against a false deadline.

Labour has been asking for a debate on this since June when our leader Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach to outline his approach on Security and Defence issues including his view on enhanced integration at an EU level.

We noticed that the Taoiseach has always parsed his words carefully on this matter, focussing on Security and speaking very little to Defence.

In June he stated in the Dáil he would offer “Ireland’s continuing solidarity and our strong commitment to working closely with our partners in combating this growing threat.

It will send out a strong message that Europe stands united and firm against terrorism, hatred and violent extremism.” 

But sure no one has any problem with a statement like that.

We all stand united against the threat of extremism and terrorism.

We know there are threats to global and regional security.

In recent years, new threats have added themselves to old ones which is complicating an already complex picture of regional security even further.

 Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, competition for natural resource, energy dependence climate change, failed states, terrorism, cyber-attacks, erosion of regional and global arms control agreements, dis-information campaigns, and organised crime.

These have been and still are important threats and challenges that Europe has to address.

These threats and challenges are diverse and affect Member States in different ways.

Consequently this explains the difficulty of reaching a common position in respect of countering them.

Therefore it is vital for Member States to spend more time evaluating these threats and challenges.

You are not giving us this time, Taoiseach, despite calls from this side of the House for the last few months that this is discussed in the Dáil and properly examined by the Defence Committee. 

With this plan, the EU Commission is proposing to add €500 million of EU funds in 2019 and 2020 to finance EU defence research and new military development.

After 2020, the figure will increase to €1.5 billion every year for research and development of new military technology.

This is the overt militarisation of the EU, it is clear and it is plain.

The video which has been released by the EU in support of PESCO is more like a movie trailer for Top Gun 2 than anything else.

As Deputy Wallace, who actually alerted me to this video through his contribution in the house, said, it is a video which is glorifying military expenditure on fighter jets, battle ships and heavy weaponry.

I know the Taoiseach has said that if we joined PESCO we would not be entering the market for heavy weaponry or warships but this video, the language coming from the Commission and the desire by some of our EU partner states, is such that an increasingly militarised European Union is the stated desire.

We don’t want Ireland clipped to the tail of this wagon and dragged inexorably towards an EU Army.

This promotional video demonstrates the real motivation behind PESCO and we need to stand fast now against it.

Put the brakes on and get back to first principles in relation to our Defence Forces.

Invest in our current personnel.

Make sure that they are being paid enough money that they do not have to rely on Family Income Supplement like 20% of our Defence Forces currently are.

Modernise our barracks improving the professional working environment for our Defence Forces men and women.

Invest in promoting greater participation in from women and minority communities in our ranks.

We need to get our own house in order first before we can move towards any other iteration of purpose for our Defence Forces.

To this end we should be further promoting our reputation for Peacekeeping and Rescue missions.

Make Ireland a shining example within Europe for making safe conflict zones, for saving lives, for working to end wars and conflict.

We have a proud record in disarmament.

We were the architects of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the 1960s.

We led the charge in the United Nations and we have continued through its history to strengthen it and re-energise it, through the New Agenda Coalition in the 1990s and more recently playing a key role in pushing for a Conference for a Middle East Nuclear Free Zone which sadly ultimately did not take place.

We hosted the Cluster Munitions Conference in 2009. Despite our size we have always been world leaders in promoting peace and disarmament.

We have never supported militarisation.

We are not members of NATO.

We do not take a triumphalist macho view of our military strength.

We take pride in the role our Defence Forces have played in providing real leadership in the toughest of tasks, that of providing peace, providing help to the most vulnerable and for standing up for global nuclear disarmament.

In an increasingly insecure world, people do not want more bombs, bullets and jets.

They want developed nations to set examples as peace keepers and peace makers. Ireland can be one of those Nations.
However, the EU Council has clearly taken steps to intensify co-operation on defence and there is now a plan to expand the range of common military activities.

This is designed to complement NATO structures but Ireland is not a member of NATO.

What is Ireland’s position on these steps, which have been driven by France and Germany, in a move towards enhanced military integration embraced wholeheartedly by the European Commission?

This approach is gathering pace due to the exit from the EU of the United Kingdom, which had traditionally opposed it, seeing any co-operation within the umbrella of the European Union as a duplication of NATO activities.

Let’s a have a proper debate on this Minister.

Your Government are so committed to having commissions and committees, and then let’s have one on our own national defence strategy in the context of the militarisation of the European Union.

We can bring this to the Defence committee and hear from all stakeholders in the area.

Let’s bring the Defence Forces in and get their views. Let’s bring PANA in.

Let’s speak to academics and defence experts.

Let’s speak to our Disarmament Section in our own department of Foreign Affairs.

Give us as politicians and public representatives who hold dear our principle of Neutrality and for Peace, a chance to engage in a real debate on this matter.

At the very least Minister, we need a full debate in this House.

Stop this now, remove the need for a vote from the Order paper.

You are making a very grave error in pushing for a vote this week.

I firmly believe this.

You need to go back to the Council and say Ireland is not ready.

We have not discussed this enough.

We don’t always have to be the good boys and girls in Europe.

We can say no on matters that fundamentally go against the grain for our Island.

It does not make us any less committed to the core EU project, the maintenance of peace on our continent, the free movement of people and trade, working together for a prosperous and social Europe.

This does provide work on common foreign and security policies but it does not necessarily mean we need a Common Defence Policy which requires military build-up.

If we go through with this vote and Fianna Fáil support the Government I am sure we will look back on this in years to come as the moment we crossed the precipice and moved Ireland in the direction of militarisation of the EU.

It may take a few more incremental steps after this is the first one and the old saying goes, “The Journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

We don’t want to make this journey Taoiseach.

We cannot be bounced, cajoled or indeed tricked into this process without rigorous debate.

This comes down to trust.

The Government are asking this House to rubber stamp a commitment to PESCO without a full and robust debate, without a Committee hearing, without hearing from outside experts.

You are asking us to trust you that Ireland can Opt In or Opt Out of particular elements of PESCO which suit us.

We don’t believe such an A La Carte approach will work in the real world.

Such promises and assurances cannot be taken on faith alone without a debate.  

Five out of Eight groupings in the Dáil supported a Motion in delaying this vote but we in labour were shocked to see Fianna Fáil support the Government in pushing this through.

They didn’t just abstain, they fully voted with the Government against the motion.

The so called architects of Ireland’s historic neutrality stance seem ready and willing roll the dice on the Militarisation of the European Union;

This is astonishing.

Withdraw the motion now Taoiseach.

Tell the EU that the Irish parliament is not satisfied and that we require a proper debate through our defence Committee.

This 11 of December deadline is a false one.

We can join at any time.

Reject it and come back to us.

If you believe in “New Politics”, bring this back to us and lets discuss it through the Defence Committee and in this House.


Thank you.

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