In a reply to a question in the Dublin parliament, the Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea has admitted that he has sent over a hundred soldiers from the 26-County Army to serve with NATO in Afghanistan.
In 2006, four years after the initial policy decision, the Minister admitted that seven Irish personnel were serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO-led multi-national force in the country.
The long-secret deployment has again raised concerns over Fianna Fail’s policy of ignoring Irish neutrality.
Sinn Fein said the continuing deployment had taken place without any parliamentary approval.
Dublin TD Aengus O Snodaigh said: “During the last two EU referenda and re-run campaigns the government and in particular Minister Willie O’Dea placed great store in the fact that a Dail approval would be required when sending more than twelve Irish soldiers abroad on military operations.
“The Irish electorate were duped in the Lisbon and Nice Treaty debates when grave concerns over Irish army operations overseas were dismissed as exaggerated and untrue. Last year and every year since 2002 the government has given permission for 14 soldiers to serve in Afghanistan without seeking Dail approval.”
Mr O Snodaigh said this was “in clear breach of the much-hyped Triple Lock mechanism” which ensures that 26-County soldiers only participate in overseas operations subject to a government decision and where there is UN authorisation.
“I call on the Minister to clarify the position of the soldiers operating in Afghanistan and why was Dail approval not sought when sending 14 soldiers annually.”