Government opposing bill calling for neutrality to be enshrined in Constitution

ireland
Government Opposing Bill Calling For Neutrality To Be Enshrined In Constitution Government Opposing Bill Calling For Neutrality To Be Enshrined In Constitution
The Government is opposing a bill calling for neutrality to be enshrined in the Constitution.
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James Cox

The Government is opposing a bill calling for neutrality to be enshrined in the Constitution.

Solidarity People Before Profit want to force any future Government to have to hold a referendum to end Ireland's long-standing policy of neutrality.

It comes as senior coalition members have been questioning the future of that policy in light of war in Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney believes putting neutrality in the Constitution would mean ending many of the things Ireland currently does, like providing money to other countries involved in war.

To be blunt, it would prevent us putting our money where our mouth is.

"It could prevent a current or future Irish government from using the instruments and tools at our disposal, either bilaterally or through the EU to give practical expression to our foreign policy. To be blunt, it would prevent us putting our money where our mouth is."

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Almost half of the public support Ireland joining a potential future European army and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) – but less want to drop the country’s policy of military neutrality, according to a recent poll.

Just 30 per cent of those polled by Red C for the Business Post want Ireland to drop its policy of neutrality, while 57 per cent want it retained.

Potential European army

However, 46 per cent of people surveyed said they would vote in favour of Irish troops serving in a potential future European army – which would mean a shift away from military neutrality.

A referendum would need to take place for this to happen, as Ireland is currently banned from joining any common EU defence arrangement under Article 29.4.9 of the constitution.

The poll also found 48 per cent of people believe Ireland should join Nato to boost its security, despite this again signaling a move away from military neutrality.

In a recent interview with BreakingNews.ie, UCD Professor of International Relations Ben Tonra said: "What I would say is whatever choice is made has consequences. Therefore, if the rest of the EU, or the overwhelming majority of the EU, wanted to proceed on this basis, and Ireland chose not to proceed on this basis, nobody is going to try and pressurise the Irish State to participate, certainly not, but if we chose not to participate then clearly that would have costs and consequences in terms of Ireland’s influence, Ireland’s role within the EU, and raise questions about Ireland’s engagement with the European Union.

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"I don’t say that in any sense of a quid pro quo, or pressure coming from anywhere, it’s just a natural political consequence. If you place yourself at the margins of an organisation then you’re at the margins of an organisation with the costs that come with that."

He added: "There’s no referendum required for us to support Ukraine, to send arms to Ukraine, none of that requires a referendum, it’s only that single point of a common defence. Oddly enough we could join Nato in the morning without a referendum, there’s nothing to preclude us joining Nato, but there is a specific provision in the Constitution that precludes our joining an EU common defence."

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