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Neutrality must be enshrined in Irish Constitution – Sinn Fein

Aengus O Snodaigh has laid out Sinn Fein’s position on neutrality in the Irish Constitution (Niall Carson/PA) Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

Neutrality has earned the Irish State significant goodwill abroad and must be enshrined in the Constitution, Sinn Fein has said.

Aengus O Snodaigh said the party would introduce a bill to the Dail before the summer recess aimed at protecting Irish neutrality.

Mr O Snodaigh said ensuring the country remained neutral was essential to its ongoing positive relationship with other states.

The defence spokesman published a report outlining Sinn Fein’s proposals on the issue of neutrality on Friday.

In it, Mr O Snodaigh called for a referendum to be held to amend the Constitution and for Ireland to rescind its ratification of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (Pesco), the EU military alliance.

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Sinn Fein also wants the US military prohibited from transporting arms and military through Shannon Airport.

“Successive governments have consistently acted to undermine the principle of neutrality that has been well established since the foundation of this state,” Mr O Snodaigh said.

“Since 2002 and despite the overwhelming public opposition to such a measure, Shannon Airport has effectively been used as a forwarding base for the US military.”

He added that recently Fine Gael MEPs had produced a policy document that argued for the abandonment of Ireland’s neutral position and full participation in an EU military alliance.

“Unsurprisingly, the current Fine Gael-led government has not disassociated itself from such proposals and has furthered Ireland’s involvement in the EU military alliance, Pesco,” Mr O Snodaigh said.

“It is clear that this Government cannot be trusted to protect neutrality and I believe it is time for the Irish people to have the final say on this matter.”

Along with 24 other EU member states Ireland joined Pesco last December.

Project Ireland 2040 funds launch Credit: Leo Varadkar

The EU body aims to increase defence capabilities and co-ordination between member states so the EU can better respond to security threats.

Opposition TDs raised concerns at the time that it could undermine Ireland’s policy of neutrality and some argued joining Pesco could be the first step towards being part of an EU army.

In the report Sinn Fein claimed signing up to Pesco was “completely unnecessary” as it was assumed by other EU states that the Irish state would not participate in the alliance as a result of its neutrality.

It also said Ireland was in a strong position to advance a policy of “positive neutrality” given the state has extensive experience of peace-keeping and conflict resolution.

Earlier this year, the country’s neutrality was once again debated after the attempted assassination of a former spy in the UK.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland was not neutral when it came to the use of chemical weapons and cyber-terrorism.