Republican News · Thursday 18 November1999

[An Phoblacht]

Ahern silent on NATO bombs

Is sauce for the Russian goose sauce for the NATO gander? Not according to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who agreed in the Dáil with US criticism of the Russian bombing of civilians in Chechnya but refused to criticise NATO bombing of civilians and punitive sanctions in Serbia and Iraq.

Ahern was challenged by Sinn FÇin TD Caoimhgh°ree;n CaolÝin in the Dáil on Tuesday on the issue. The Cavan/Monaghan TD asked:

``Does the Taoiseach agree with the comments of the US State Department deploring the Russian bombardment of civilians in Chechnya? If the Taoiseach agrees, as I suspect he will, does he therefore agree that the same standards should be applied to the equally deplorable NATO bombing of Belgrade and the ongoing brutalisation of the people of Iraq through continuing bombings and sanctions?''

The Taoiseach replied:

``The government fully condemns all acts of terrorism, including all the acts perpetrated against the people of Chechnya and the bombing of Russian cities in September. We recognise the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and the need for the federal authorities to take measures to deal with terrorism. However, it is essential that universal human rights and the principles of international humanitarian rights be upheld and respected. There can be no military solution in Chechnya.''

O Caoláin pointed out that the Taoiseach did not answer the question and returned to the issue:

``I purposely posed my question in the way I did because I believe it is the acid test of the Taoiseach's claim and that of his Government that Irish neutrality continues. The Taoiseach spoke of being opposed to all acts of terrorism. Can one construe from that, that he views the bombing of the civilians of Chechnya as an act of terrorism? Whatever his answer, is he prepared to take an equally strong position in relation to the NATO bombing of Belgrade and the ongoing brutalisation of the people of Iraq, to which I referred, by the continuation of bombings and sanctions? This jurisdiction has a responsibility not only to make claims to neutrality on the world stage but to actually put it into practice through the utterances and actions of its representatives and its forces.''

The Taoiseach would still not address the question and said, oddly, that he was ``opposed to all violence, from anti-drugs gangs to bombing Chechnya'' but stayed silent when O Caoláin asked finally ``What about the NATO bombing of Kosovo and Iraq?''

The Sinn Féin TD commented afterwards: ``The Taoiseach's silence speaks volumes about his new allegiance to NATO through its so-called Partnership for Peace, which he pushed through the Dáil last week.''

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