Thursday, February 09, 2006


Irish soldiers in EU battle groups

We've got to contributeI'm pleased at the news that Ireland will participate in EU battle groups in future.

The units are composed of 1,500 combat soldiers and are designed to be ready for deployment in war-torn countries within 15 days.

Defence Minister Willie O’Dea said his decision to open discussions with potential EU partners on taking part in the battle groups would not affect Irish neutrality.

"Our participation is fully in accordance with our traditional support for the UN. Deployment of our troops in individual peace support operations will be decided by our own national decision-making process, on a case-by-case basis," he said.

The battle groups are part of a drive to shake up the EU’s military capabilities, after it was severely embarrassed by its inability to prevent atrocities in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s.

It wants to be able to respond quickly to conflicts before they escalate.

The battle groups will be complimented by a proposed Rapid Reaction force, which will have up to 60,000 soldiers available and deployable for far longer periods.

Mr O’Dea said 22 of the 25 member States have made a commitment to joining the EU Battle groups.

Fine Gael Defence spokesman Billy Timmons TD said he supported the move to begin negotiations on joining the EU battle groups.

"The vast majority of EU Member States are already in an advanced state of planning on this matter, and our Government should no longer drag its heels on this important issue."

But he said he regretted the failure of Mr O’Dea to amend the 'triple lock' mechanism.

"From the point of view of Ireland’s participation in an EU battle group, the 'triple lock' will continue to act as a barrier to Ireland acting quickly in a peacekeeping capacity. The requirement to be available to deploy at short notice is a key aspect of the battle group concept."

I think this is good news but I am in agreement with Fine Gael's Billy Timmons. The 'triple lock' mechanism should have been amended.

It's time to consign this Irish 'tradition of neutrality' bullshit to the dustbin of history.


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