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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Ireland's Neutrality and Iranian Protests

I am very happy to support this motion tabled by my colleague, Senator Clonan, and seconded by Senator McDowell. It comes at a crucial time, with the debate around this issue growing all the time in the political and public realm. I spoke on Order of Business last month about how Fine Gael seems, as a party, to have abandoned support for this country's neutrality, and wants to sit with the big boys around the table in the war room. Senator Clonan spoke earlier today on the radio of the numbers of Irish men who went to die over the years in wars in Europe and the world over, shocking numbers when one thinks of the person behind the figure, someone's son, brother or husband. The proponents of abandoning our neutrality tend to frame it as the moral thing to do - that we must take up arms to right wrongs, and fight tooth and nail against injustice, no matter where it rears its head. The reality, of course, is less glamorous. It is our sons and daughters being sent to fight and die for foreign causes.

The vast majority of Irish people correctly hold our neutrality in high esteem and do not want to see it cynically undermined by concerted efforts in the service of super-national interests. Some proponents of a more hands-on approach to war may feel as if our neutrality has us sitting on the sidelines when we could be helping. Nothing could be further from the truth. The sustained neutrality of countries such as Ireland allows us to be highly trusted brokers of peace on the international stage and to lead by example in that regard. Our participation in peacekeeping missions is of enormous benefit to the countries where they take place, and our record in the area of humanitarian assistance is well recognised and well regarded on the international stage. No one is calling for less help to be given to those who need it, but we should not be drawn into wars which are not our own. Amhrán na bhFiann calls for us to man the bearna bhaoil in Erin's cause, not the causes of NATO, the US or the EU. There is no appetite in this country for Irish blood to be spilled on foreign soil, and I urge the Government to respect the will of the people rather than trying to swing it.

Senator Higgins spoke earlier about soft power and how we value our place on the world stage. This is the ninth week of protests in Iran. Iran's judiciary stated on Tuesday that 40 foreign nationals have been arrested for taking part in protests there. I wonder if any of those was Irish.

Of the 1,413 protests between 16 September and 18 November, 1,290 were led by women. We all know why these protests are taking place in Iran. The Minister and Ireland plan to reopen our embassy there in March. I am asking the Minister to use his soft power, our place on the world stage and the value we, as a nation, place on international law to pause the reopening of the Irish embassy in Tehran while this war is going on.

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