"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

No need for a triple lock referendum

Rinceoir is quite right to say that John Gormley TD's call (in today's Irish Times) for a referendum to enshrine the so-called "triple lock" policy into our Constitution is misguided. Quite apart from the likely ensuing divisions between the Greens and their possible senior coalition partners, Fine Gael, over the issue, the suggestion is wrong in itself. It seems like a kite Mr. Gormley has decided to fly in an attempt to grab some of the political spotlight. As a small party often overlooked by current affairs programmers, his motivation is comprehensible. The Greens have the added to difficulty of being in opposition.

But to the subtance of the point. The triple lock is a policy requirement that before Irish forces can be committed overseas, the Government, legislature and the United Nations Security Council must sanction the mission. There are clear arguments from sovereignty and independence against imposing such a policy restriction in the Constitution. It is one thing to have such a requirement as a matter of policy (although given the complacent attitude of Irish public opinion to the UN's ability to act as arbiter of legitimacy and efficacy in security matters, it is a relatively rigid requirement i.e. not easily abandoned by a government committed to it), it is another to crystallise it in our founding charter in a way that will be very difficult to remove.

Instead, Irish policy should be moving in the other direction. The triple lock is an unnecessary encumberance on Irish foreign policy. It overly constricts our Government's options. It substitutes a tenacious belief in an outmoded institutional model (that is provided the UNSC ever worked as it was supposed to) for legitimate discretion in foreign affairs. It can lead to absurd results. Why should the veto of China or Russia (or for that matter any of the other permanent Security Council members) dictate as a matter of constitutional law or otherwise how Ireland must decide every time there is a crisis in the world where Ireland's well-respected and experienced (but grossly underfunded) armed forces could intervene justly and effectively, as part of a coalition of the willing? We should keep our options open. My argument here is not with the idea of international rules on the legitimate use of force per se but rather with the idea of Ireland's future policy options being restricted in this manner, to this institution.

Freedom of action in Irish foreign policy must be maintained and expanded on. Mr. Gormley's suggestion should be treated for what it is: an unjustifiable political stunt. I hope the Government see it that way too.


Blogger Simon said...

Very good post and I would totally oppose appose China/American /russian/etc rule on our political processes.

But would people stop using the phrase coalition of the willing it does my head in.

Wed Feb 15, 08:27:00 PM GMT  

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