Government will undermine UN, further endanger Irish troops by changing ‘triple lock’, Dáil told

Tánaiste and Independent TD accuse each other of being ‘deluded’ in row over military neutrality

The Government has been warned it will add to the undermining of the UN and put Defence Forces personnel in much more danger if the triple lock mechanism for the approval of peacekeeping operations is changed.

Labour defence spokesman Brendan Howlin made the claim in the Dáil as Tánaiste Micheál Martin staunchly defended the approach during heated exchanges with Independent TD Catherine Connolly.

Ms Connolly told Mr Martin that “if you think getting rid of the triple lock will lead to a more peaceful world you’re deluded”, adding that the “sweet words of war” had to be called out.

But the Tánaiste said that “people don’t want to accept the reality” and he suggested that “it’s deluded thinking” that Ireland should depend on the United Nations Security Council to sanction any future peacekeeping missions.


The row erupted during a series of defence questions about the Government’s plan to amend the triple lock requirement of Dáil, Government and UN approval for peacekeeping operations.

Mr Howlin said Ireland had a proud record of UN peacekeeping, “always under the umbrella of acting in the interests of the world community”.

If the State moved to domestic endorsement or as part of a geopolitical group “it puts our troops in much more danger because they are not seen as acting for the world community but as acting for a part of the world, a geopolitical grouping”, he said.

He added: “The Tánaiste is right. There is a total undermining of the UN. But we have been the advocates of the UN. We have been the defenders of the UN - and this move will add to the autocratic view – we’ve seen the attitude of Israel to the UN. Even when 143 nations vote they are all to be decried.

“But the UN institutions are the post second World War best hope and would it not be better for us to seek to reform the mechanism of the UN rather than to add the cavalcade of undermining it.”

Mr Martin, who is Minister for Defence, said “the fundamental problem” is that no peacekeeping operations have been sanctioned since 2014.

“We’ve co-sponsored the motion to admit Palestine to the UN but it was the security council through the US veto that stopped that.” He said “the real issues” in the Security Council are glided over by the Opposition.

“We’re essentially saying we won’t be participating in any future peacekeeping missions at all if we allow the current situation.”

Sinn Féin TD Ruarí Ó Murchú earlier said Irish guarantees about the triple lock were “explicitly made” in advance of the second Nice and Lisbon referendums “in response to the fears of the Irish people regarding militarisation and its impact on Irish neutrality”.

He added that Mr Martin was a member of the governments that made those “solemn promises”.

Ms Connolly told the Tánaiste it was “absolutely disgraceful and disingenuous to tell us that getting rid of the triple lock will not interfere with our neutrality”.

Mr Martin told her that “personal vitriol isn’t going to change my mind. And there’s nothing abnormal about the Government proposing a legislative proposal, publishing a general scheme, bringing it before the House for debate”.

He said it would be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny and “will have to be within the framework of the UN charter and international humanitarian law”.

Ms Connolly said “I’ve never been given to personal vitriol but I will repeat what I said that you are disgraceful, deluded, disingenuous.

“Sweet words of war have to be called out for what they are. A choreographed agenda to lose our neutrality has to be called out.”

Warning that people did not want to accept reality, Mr Martin suggested it was deluded thinking to depend on the Security Council. He said “we want to participate in peacekeeping because that is our contribution. We not a military power.”

“We’re essentially saying we won’t be participating in any future peacekeeping missions at all if we allow the current situation.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times