10 January 2006

Weapons of Shame

Daily Ireland

Fianna Fáil coalition slammed as ‘morally bankrupt’ over massive boom in Irish arms exports

David Lynch


MILITARY equipment sales from the Republic have topped €300 million (£205 million) since the present Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat coalition came to power in 1997.
The sales figure highlights the present government’s “moral bankruptcy” in this area, it was claimed yesterday.
Joe Murray, the director of the charity Action from Ireland, told Daily Ireland yesterday that the “significant increase in the militarisation” of the Southern economy, combined with the US military’s use of Shannon airport, showed “clearly where this government stands on these issues”.
AfrI is an independent group that seeks to promote debate and influence policy and practice in Ireland and internationally on human rights, peace and justice issues.
In 1996, the group published the Links Report, the first report to highlight the growing links between Irish private companies and the international arms economy.
News yesterday that Irish companies exported €30 million (£21 million) worth of military equipment to the international arms trade in 2005 alone was no shock to AfrI.
“We gave the warning back in 1996 that this was becoming an increasing part of our economy, and the government chose to ignore that advice. They have decided to put their head in the sand like an ostrich,” Mr Murray said.
He said the government had made some “small changes” to the rules governing the arms trade from the South of Ireland “but nothing of much significance”.
“One of the ways the government gets around this issue is pointing to so-called dual-use equipment. They can say that these can be both used for military and civilian use, so we cannot be sure which.
“However, with the specific military equipment they cannot hide from the fact that this is directly linked with the arms trade.”
According to yesterday’s reports, when dual-use exports are added to the overall figure, the government granted 352 licences in 2005, amounting to more than €1.8 billion (£1.23 billion) in sales worldwide.
AfrI said Irish business should not be involved in the arms trade at all.
“There is no need for us to be involved. There is plenty of money being made in the economy already. And when people look at the misery and pain that the arms economy creates in the world, there is really no excuse for us being involved,” said Mr Murray.
Despite the fact that AfrI has not done any recent research into the issue, Mr Murray said it was his opinion that some of the military exports from the state were going to Nato members as well as other countries with questionable records on human rights.
The news of the extent and scope of Irish involvement in the arms economy also drew criticism from Labour Party deputy Michael D Higgins.
“The government has repeatedly told the public in recent years that Ireland is not a producer of arms in the normal international sense.
“How can such a claim stack up when Irish-based companies exported €30 million worth of military equipment in 2005?” asked Mr Higgins.
“Previously, Ireland had a reputation of advocating international disarmament but that status has been shattered by these figures.”
The Irish branch of Amnesty Ireland has called on the government to support an international campaign to draft a treaty regulating the global arms trade.
Amnesty, Oxfam and the International Network on Small Arms mounted the campaign as the United Nations held preliminary talks on the issue in New York yesterday.
According to Amnesty, the South of Ireland produced €240 million (£164 million) worth of military goods and €23.7 billion (£16.2 billion) worth of so-called dual-use goods between 1997 and 2002.
Amnesty spokesman Jim Loughran said these so-called dual-use goods included triggers for Tomahawk missiles, computer systems to control bomb-dropping equipment, firing mechanisms, and communications systems for attack helicopters.
“This is equipment that can have a direct military relevance, and Ireland is increasingly a significant player,” he said.

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