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Iraq, Overflight and Oversight

5.14.2005

The revelations from Labour TD Roisin Shorthall regarding the expense the government of American overflight in Irish airspace to is incredibly embarrassing to the government. That much is obvious to everybody. However it raises more questions about government procedure than it answers. There are a number of issues that arise as a result of the war in Iraq and Shorthall’s subsequent revelations. The first issue is back to late 2002 and whether this government has any real conviction in the principle of Irish neutrality.
Back in the build up to the second Gulf War, there was a great deal of uproar over Shannon “warport” being used as a base for American military logistics. The government never explicitly expressed support for the war so we are left to assume Saddam would have been offered facilities at Knock should he feel compelled to retaliate. The revelation that we are thus subsidising American military overflight implicates us irredeemably in the war effort. This should be the final affront that many moderate Irish people require to speak up and speak out against this government’s behaviour. Many of the centre in the Irish electorate took the long view on Shannon and Iraq, the issue of neutrality was fudged sufficiently that normal day to day life was undisturbed by moral dilemmas. Now that changes. We are paying for America to fly over our country en-route to killing 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Note that a tiny proportion of the Saddam-Iraqi regime has been killed by U.S. bombing runs. Such behaviour represents serious contravention of Cowen’s promise at the time to respect the integrity of Irish neutrality, thus what was seen by many people as an issue of the Government versus Hard Left now moves to centre ground as we must ask questions of the governments behaviour and intention.
We must ask serious questions, again, of what our representatives are doing with our country. I am displeased that we have been implicated to such an extent by the government in this probably illegal war. the government owes us answers, we are sovereign holders of power in this state and we overwhelmingly support neutrality, its easy and to be fair Dev called it well, small countries don’t influence big conflict. The time has belatedly arrived for us to hold a debate on where our country should stand, to borrow a phrase from the Franco on the `Green “constructive ambiguity can be no more”.

The second issue raised by Shorthall’s revelation comes from the parliamentary procedure prosecuted by her. The question was submitted recently the reply which was published was prompt and informative to a point. The whole area of parliamentary questions has been derided as a waste of time, if one doesn’t ask exactly the right question then one receives a fudged and uncooperative answer. It is clearly in no minister’s interest to reform this ineffective system. Shorthall asked the right question and got an answer that for some on the left is a barrel of dynamite. Then she publihed the answer in full. Parliamentary oversight is incredibly weak in our democracy, it’s a pedantic political point that is only raised in conjunction with a large news story. It doesn’t hold the nations imagination for very long. Neither does it serve the nation very well. Opposition hold no interest in greatly reforming this fact as they too hope to be in government at some stage.
The effectiveness of Shorthall’s question in opening up our eyes to the actions of our government should be supported. We need to callously manipulate such populist questions to further the case for some type of reform and reenforcement of parliamentary oversight. We cant obstruct the business of government more than they do themselves and other arguments can be similar argued for. Let me know some, I am firmly pro-oversight and believe there is a moral imperative for parties on the left to run a clean sweep program. The nation needs to renew its confidence in the ability of government to carry out the work we demand of it. Not to spin and manipulate the truth with fudges and control. We got the truth this evening. Let’s hope there is more to come. The case for reform lies in the potential for E10,000,000 and 140,000 troops to grow and grow as the threat from Iran and Syria to the US ego grow too.
PQs are a start but we need to explore engagement as a major source of information, TV and radio hold a powerful tool in their possession. Unbiased and unfiltered coverage is required at some decent hour. We will reengage we are a political nation but a more coherent policy for reengagement and accountability are required.
Red Rover

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