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Blind Eye Neutrality is the not the reality of Ireland in 2019 - Ryan

7 February 2019

Statement by Brendan Ryan TD
Party Whip, Spokesperson on Defence

Brendan Ryan, Labour Spokesperson for Defence has called for Ireland to sign the EU status of forces agreement (S.O.F.A.). The agreements guarantee that Ireland’s neutrality will remain protected while securing proper legal protection for the Defence Forces. 

Deputy Ryan said:

“The EU Status of Forces Agreement is designed to ensure that our Defence Forces has the capacity to regulate the legal and administrative arrangements in respect of particular privileges and immunities applicable to members of foreign forces operating within the State where they are deployed. I understand that certain aspects of Status of Forces Agreements might sound distasteful, providing as they do immunities in relation to the nature of military equipment involved and the potential use of lethal force. Such wording does make those of us of the neutrality tradition instinctively recoil.

"However, we need to take pause and realise that our troops operate in dangerous environments when peacekeeping and such wording in legal texts is understandable and at times necessary. It does not mean our defence forces personnel will be given license to operate with lethal force in an act of military aggression or crime.” 

Ryan continued, “By refusing to ratify SOFA we are making it more difficult to practice as a professional defence force. This has been proven in recent years with our personnel excluded from some training operations. I for one support our defence forces at all levels, and I want to ensure they are able to participate in training and exercises with our EU partner States. Motions like this are intermittent reminders to some in this House that our neutrality operates in a more complex multilateral environment. Ratifying S.O.F.A. does not equate to a creep towards an EU Army of aggression. It does not compromise our Triple Lock arrangements. It does not compromise our neutrality and perhaps it is worth it to remind the house that it has been signed by the other neutral and non-aligned countries in the EU.”

Ryan concluded “Splendid isolation, and blind eye neutrality is not the reality of Ireland in 2019. We are a mature sovereign state which has deep relationships with our EU partners. We have ensured over the years that the core tenets of our own neutrality are protected but with that, we also have to recognise that our relationships require complex legal agreements to protect our men and women in our Defence Forces. S.O.F.A. is one of them.”