Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1998: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Thursday, 2 July 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 156 No. 9

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Sections 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 4.

Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis I do not wish to push my luck with the Minister but my point relates to functions and duties of the Chief of Staff as defined in section 4. It states that he shall be directly responsible to the Minister for the performance of such duties as may from time to time be assigned to him or her under subsection (2). This is as it should be. I agree with the Minister that the Army must be subject to the control of the democratic State. Its purpose is to support the civil power. However, my point relates to the degree to which it would be possible to politically interfere with the Army. This would be entirely improper, although I do not suggest the Minister would do it.

Yesterday the Chief of Staff made a comment in respect of the Partnership for Peace. It was appropriate for the military adviser to the Government to speak out, but there appeared to be an inference on a radio programme yesterday evening that this was improper, that the Chief of Staff should not have a view on such matters and that if he did have a view, he should keep it to himself and not express it publicly. I am totally opposed to the idea that he should keep his mouth shut. It is proper for the Chief of Staff to [721] have a view on matters which are relevant to the way the Army can operate and the degree to which it should be involved in overseas peacekeeping and peace enforcement duties. I welcome the statement reported in the press yesterday.

As the Minister is aware, there were a number of heated meetings around the country before the last general election where the representative associations made their views explicitly known. This is proper and healthy for democracy. However, I heard a statement at one meeting which appalled me. An individual stated that they would march on Leinster House and throw their medals through the railings. The suggestion that anybody in the Army, which supports the State, would march on the Parliament is dangerous. I hope we never see members of the Defence Forces marching on the Parliament of this State.

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): Information on Michael Smith Zoom on Michael Smith The views expressed by that individual are unrepresentative of the vast majority of people who serve in the Defence Forces. I know the person concerned and I am very low down on his list of people who deserve commendation at any time but I must survive that. His comments are totally unrepresentative. Such views should never be expressed or such action taken, but it is important to realise that his views represent 0.0001 per cent of the total of 11,500 people in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.

I will not comment on the statement made by the Chief of Staff.

The partnership for peace is a matter which the Government will consider in discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs. Ultimately, the people would be consulted about it. The Amsterdam Treaty was passed and each case is considered on its merits in terms of whether our capacity and experience would be helpful. That remains the position.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 5 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.


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