Plans for participation in European Union battle groups by the 26-County Army has come in for strong criticism.
The EU Nordic battlegroup which the troops are set to join will be headquartered in Northwood in London’s suburbs and the will receive orders from British Multinational Operation Headquarters in London.
At a session of the National Forum on Europe, Defence minister Willie O’Dea again defended the plans which could see 26-County troops fighting offensive actions in international conflict.
He argued the battle groups stood in the tradition of Irish military participation in operations abroad. Ireland is, under some expressions of government policy, a neutral country.
Sinn Féin Dublin city councillor Daithi Doolan said extra military spending was not what the Irish people wanted.
He added: “It is impossible to believe the battlegroup is just somehow renting a hall in Northwood like the minister tried to say.”
Former Green MEP Patricia McKenna said the Northwood link was all the more sinister “considering recent revelations about British security forces collusion with loyalist paramilitaries”.
The British Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) at Northwood was established in April 1996.
Doolan said money would be better spent on healthcare and education. “Ireland has a very long and proud history of involvement in UN peacekeeping forces,” he said.
“Yet these battle groups also pose a very real threat to the future of the UN.
“With 156,000 troops involved in the EU battle groups, the UN will suffer depleting numbers at a time when the strain on peacekeeping could not be greater.
“It appears that Minister O’Dea has simply prioritised battle groups over legitimate peacekeeping.”
Roger Cole, of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, said the battle groups were so called “because they are built to go to war”.
* Dublin government ministers could face criminal charges over “extraordinary rendition” flights through Shannon airport in the west of Ireland.
Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said criminal prosecutions could be brought against individuals who knew that “extraordinary rendition” flights were passing through Shannon.
A technician at Shannon airport was recently reported to have observed bound and shackled prisoners on CIA flights to alleged torture centres elsewhere in Europe.
However, Dublin ministers have insisted they believe US assurances that torture flights are not going through Shannon.