IRELAND - RECRUITMENT INTO OVERSEAS ARMED FORCES QUESTIONED
The Celtic League has reiterated its concerns to the Irish government about the recruitment of Irish nationals into overseas armed forces. The issue has been highlighted recently with substantially increased numbers of young people from Ireland reported to be joining the British Army.
"Minister Willie O'Dea TD
Office of the Minister for Defence
Oifig an Aire Cosanta
Department of Defence
An Roinn Cosanta
13 August 2008
I refer to our earlier correspondence relating to the service of Irish Nationals in overseas armed forces and am grateful for your response of the 7th August 2008.
I regret that your Department and the Irish government is falling back on the personal choice argument over this issue. Whilst personal choice and individual freedom is of course a primary pre-requisite of any democratic society the State does also owe a duty of care to
all its citizens.
It is also the case that International law sets minimum age standards e.g:
"The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 May 2000. Its main provisions state:
State Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities"
Whilst it is obviously possible for the Irish government to ensure that children recruited into your own Defence Forces are not used in potential areas of armed conflict before they have attainted majority the Irish State has no such control over the way that Irish Nationals
recruited into overseas armed forces are used.
Neither can I accept that the service of Irish nationals on overseas armed forces particularly in contentious conflicts does not have an impact on the very sound reputation and high regard in which the Irish Army is held after many decades of peace-keeping operations around the world.
We live in an age of twenty-four hour news available globally and just recently an Irish national killed in Afghanistan fighting with the British Army was first described by media as a 'British' casualty than as Irish. If subsequently Irish peacekeepers were deployed in any area in which belligerent troops who had operated were described as 'Irish' the subtleties may not be as readily apparent to the indigenous population as the DoD seem to believe.
Our concerns over this issue were considered at the Celtic League AGM in Dublin in August and we still hold the view that service by Nationals of one State in the armed forces of another should be discouraged.
Director of Information
Cc Minister for Foreign Affairs"
"Michael Martin TD
Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Department of Foreign Affairs,
80 St. Stephen's Green,
I refer to our earlier correspondence in relation to the service of Irish nationals in overseas armed forces.
I enclose a copy of recent correspondence in relation to this matter to the Department of Defence.
You indicated to us in your reply in August that there is in your view no conflict between recruitment into overseas armed forces and Ireland's international obligations. As we have pointed out to Minister O'Dea this may be questionable where very young people are recruited and the Irish state has no control over whether they will be placed
in situations of danger or even deployed to conflict zones. We have cited to the Department of Defence "The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict".
However International Labour Law is also alert to the potential for abuse. The ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention 182 was adopted on 17 June 1999 and came into force on 19 November 2000. It commits each state which ratifies it to "take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency". (5) The term "child" applies to all persons under the age of 18 years (6) and the worst forms of child labour include:
"all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict". (7)
Recommendation 190 accompanying Convention 182 encourages states to make such recruitment a criminal offence. This was the first time that an 18-year minimum age limit was set in relation to child soldiering in an international treaty. It was also the first specific, legal recognition of child soldiering as a form of child labour.
Even States which claim to have enlightened policies on the deployment in conflict zones of young people such as the United Kingdom do not have sound records and just over a year ago the British Government admitted it had "inadvertently" sent 17 year olds to Iraq. I do not have to point out to you that Ireland is a particular target for British Army recruitment strategies which have been criticised for glamorising armed service employment opportunities and targeting vulnerable youth categories.
I would urge you to revisit this issue.
Director of Information
Cc Department of Defence"
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J B Moffatt
Director of Information