Removing Triple Lock ‘would be vindication of Irish sovereignty’

Triple Lock gives ‘great powers’ a veto over where State deploys peacekeeping troops, says Varadkar

Removing the Triple Lock, which prevents Ireland deploying troops overseas without UN approval, would be a vindication of Irish sovereignty, the Taoiseach said on Thursday.

Leo Varadkar said he was never a fan of the Triple Lock, and that he did not regard the concept as being a component of Irish neutrality.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has announced plans to scrap the Triple Lock. Mr Martin said he wants Ireland to be able to respond to crises without waiting for approval from the UN Security Council, which has not authorised a new peacekeeping mission since 2014.

Under the Triple Lock system, 12 or more Defence Forces troops cannot be deployed on an active overseas mission without approval from the Dáil, the Government and authorisation from the UN.


According to Mr Martin, the system hands the five permanent members of the Security Council “a veto over our national sovereign decision to deploy troops to peacekeeping missions as we see fit”.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Varadkar pointed out that the UN has not approved a peacekeeping operation in almost 10 years. Removing the Triple Lock would be a vindication of Irish sovereignty, he said, “saying that we actually aren’t going to allow Russia or China or America or Britain or France decide where we can or can’t send our troops”.

“I think there’s a danger that we won’t be able to participate in any new peacekeeping operation if we continue to allow the veto power of those great powers – that won the war 75 years ago and have nuclear weapons – to decide where we can’t send our troops.”

Mr Varadkar added he had been advocating for reform of the UN and the Security Council, but that this was unlikely.

“Meanwhile, there are places in the world that may be looking for help, looking for a support. And I think we should be open to that.

“I don’t honestly believe any party in Ireland would wantonly send Irish troops into a place of danger. You know, I don’t remember ever doing that before, and I don’t think that that would be done deliberately again,” the Taoiseach said.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has defended the Tánaiste and the timing of his announcement in the Dáil on Wednesday about changes to the Triple Lock system.

Mr Harris told RTE radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that the Tanaiste had taken the time to outline his response to the consultative forum on international security.

“There’s a way to go on this,” he said. This was not the end of the process, he added. Proposals would have to come before the Government, every member of the Dáil would have a vote on the issue. The point was that the UN Security Council had the power of veto over the sending of Irish troops on peace keeping missions, Mr Harris said.

“There are five permanent members of the Security Council who can veto any such mandate, and that includes Russia and includes China. Are we really saying that after all that has happened in the world, that we don’t want the Irish Government or the Irish people’s representatives to decide if we can send peacekeeping troops overseas? Do we want Vladimir Putin to have a say in relation to it, and that’s actually the effect.”

While Ireland was a proud member of the UN, the fact remained that the Security Council was not functioning well, he said.

“This is a body that took six weeks, six weeks after the terrible terrorist atrocity in Israel to even issue a statement, to get agreement on a statement. It’s a body that to this day hasn’t offered words in relation to a resolution on Ukraine, despite the fact that the war is on the continent of Europe.

“So we have to be real here, to be clear, this is not about neutrality. We’re not changing our policy on neutrality. But if we want to send more than 12 Irish men and women abroad to help keep peace, do we really want Putin or others to have a veto on that?

“We have no confidence in the UN Security Council to be able to form a collective opinion on major issues that aren’t then vetoed by somebody else. What we’re saying is we can’t sit idly by while a body that has five countries that have a veto gets to decide whether Irish men or women can play an important part in peacekeeping. And I don’t think Irish people want that.

“I think what we want here is the democratically elected representatives of the people, the Oireachtas and the Irish Government to have a say. But let’s also be really clear. This will all have to be legislated for. The detail of this will have to be teased through. There’s plenty of opportunity to debate this.”

Speaking on Thursday, Independent TD and former Irish Army Ranger Cathal Berry also said he did not regard the Triple Lock as a “component for Ireland’s neutrality”.

Mr Berry told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland the Triple Lock situation was unique to Ireland and no one was “asking us to have it”.

“I think a balance could be struck so there can be circumstances with external checks and balances but that could also provide the Government with additional autonomy to assist Irish citizens overseas where appropriate.”

The abolition of the Triple Lock would allow Ireland to take part in missions organised by other bodies such as the EU or African Union, Mr Martin said. Ireland could also directly assist a country which is requesting assistance from the international community.

Ireland can, and does, take part in EU- and Nato-led peacekeeping missions but only if they have received a UN mandate.

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times