With the new government already having suffered its first defeat, we are clearly not in a period of politics as usual in the Oireachtas. This raises the question of whether Ireland’s ‘Triple Lock’ on overseas deployments will take on greater significance in the new Dáil.
The ‘Triple Lock’ which entered the political lexicon during the Nice Treaty debates refers to the need for a UN resolution, a Government decision and Dáil vote before deploying Irish troops abroad on peacekeeping missions. In previous years, a Government and Dáíl acting in unison could be taken as given but as Wednesday’s vote showed this is clearly not the case anymore.
Irish defence policy has traditionally been a quiet backwater governed by a combination of consensus and neglect, but several of the parties and groupings in the new Dáil have a long record of criticising Ireland’s involvement in regional defence cooperation be it Partnership for Peace or the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.
Sinn Féin and the AAA/PBPA with 29 TDs between them form a significant bloc likely to oppose any future deployment. Adding in left independents like Joan Collins, Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Tommy Broughan and Seamus Healy this number rises to 34 the Green Party, with its long tradition of peace activism is another possibility.
The Social Democrats don’t, as far as I can tell, have a public position on security and defence.
Of the right independents outside the government it’s difficult to tell what way they are likely to vote. God knows what the Healy-Rae’s would do but for the rest we’ll just have to wait and see.
On the other side, one would expect the 58 government TDs to support any decision to deploy. Similarly Labour’s 7 TDs would likely support the motion. Even with Fianna Fáil abstaining, the numbers would be there to support the government.
The ‘Triple Lock’ will likely open as freely in this Dáil as in the past.
It’s an open question whether this calculus would change if Irish troops abroad suffered significant casualties during this Dáil term but it’s difficult to envisage either Labour or Fianna Fáil seeking to make political capital out of such a tragedy.