Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Irish Positions on Syria

By Anthony Carragher.

I thought this may be of interest to some of your readers. It is the stances of the political parties here in Ireland on the Syrian conflict. It should be noted that recently, Walid Saffour was allowed to speak at a small meeting in the Houses of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament buildings) where he called on elected officials to support a no-fly zone and lifting of the arms embargo. He received little support from the elected representatives.
Fine Gael (Family of the Irish): Fine Gael is a Christian Democratic centre-right party and currently the largest party in Ireland. It is only active in southern Ireland where it won 76 seats in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) and is currently the senior coalition partner in government where its leader Enda Kenny TD, holds the position of Taoiseach (Prime Minister).
As the foreign affairs portfolio is handled by its junior government partner, the Labour Party, Fine Gael has made little statements on the Syria crisis apart from calls for increased humanitarian aid for those displaced as a result of the conflict.
At the party’s Ard Fheis (annual conference) in 2012, however, it adopted the following motion unanimously: “Fine Gael believes that the actions of the Syrian regime in attacking and killing innocent civilians represent crimes against humanity, and that the deliberate obstruction of UN action by Russia and China is an affront to the world.”
Labour Party: The Labour Party is the second largest party in the Dáil with 33 seats where it is the junior partner in a colaition government. The party is centre-left and closely allied to the Irish Trade Union movement. The party’s leader, Eamon Gilmore, is Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and also Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has opposed the lifting of an arms embargo on Syria saying it would lead to increased violence.
Gilmore has also called for those responsible for the violence to be referred to the International Criminal Court saying: “Those who are responsible for the slaughter, those who are carrying it out and those who are directing it, have to know there will be a consequence, just as 20 years ago there was a consequence for those who slaughtered people in the Balkans. Ireland has taken a lead in a number of countries who are asking the United Nations to refer what is happening in Syria to the International Criminal Court.”
Gilmore has, however, also outlined support for the opposition by stating in October 2012: “The Syrian opposition must also work more closely together to forge a united vision for a democratic Syria to which all their compatriots can rally. I welcome the recent progress made and hope that efforts to build up greater opposition unity under the Arab League can continue.”
Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny)Fianna Fáil is the third-largest political party in the Republic Ireland with 19 seats in the Dáil although historically it has dominated Irish political life since the 1920s. It suffered a heavy defeat at the ballot box due to its mishandling of the economic crisis. It is centrist and republican, meaning it wishes to see Ireland reunited as a single state. The party has been more vocal than any other in its support for the Syrian opposition.
On the 29 June the party’s leader, Mícheál Martin TD, (who previously served as Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs) said he believed the government’s opposition to lifting the arms embargo on Syria was the “wrong call”. He instead outlined his parties support for the arming of the opposition and said: “I think the Franco-British position is the correct one” in relation to their calls for the ending of the weapons embargo.
Sinn Féin (Ourselves) is the fourth largest party in the Republic of Ireland with 14 seats in the Dáil and the second-largest party in Northern Ireland (with 29 seats) where it is part of a coalition government. It is politically left-wing and Irish republican, seeking the reunification of Ireland. It is considered the political arm of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), by far the largest Irish guerrilla organisation. The party has not said much on the conflict but has argued against  the media portrayal which shows“the simplistic scenario of  bad government, good rebels” saying that this “does not reflect its reality.”
Sinn Féin’s Dáil Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Seán Crowe TD, said:
The rebels in Syria are not one unified group, with an organised command structure, and a shared set of goals. They are made up of a variety of groups and have been accused of large scale human rights abuses, as have the Government. EU member states which send weapons to Syria will not be able to adequately track where the weapons will go and they can fall into the hands of radical Islamist groups, as happened in Libya. The best way to stop the conflict is through peace talks and a peace process.”
Socialist Party: The Socialist Party is a small Trotskyist party formed following the expulsion of a number of activists from the Labour Party. It won two seats in the Dáil. The party was initially strongly supportive of those who protested against the Syrian President.
Since then the party has distanced itself from outright support and has instead called for an end to western intervention with party leader Joe Higgins TD, saying: “A poisonous cocktail of interests is now at play in the civil war in Syria. Western imperial powers which have widely interfered in the Middle East over an historic period –Britain, France and the United States – have been busy giving aid in different guises to the Free Syrian Army in the hope of toppling the Assad regime and getting a more pliable government. Naturally they proclaim their main interest is democracy for the Syrian people.”
He has also criticised the involvement of “reactionary Sunni regime in Saudi Arabia and its support for Sunni opposition groups” saying it could lead to a sectarian Yugoslavia-style war. The party has called for workers and ordinary people to united and create a new Syria where wealth is under the democratic control of the people.
Socialist Workers Party: The SWP is a far left Trotskyist political party active in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. It has one seat in the Dáil as part of an electoral alliance known as the United Left Alliance (ULA) and a number of elected members at local level.  The group was highly supportive of the armed opposition at the beginning of the Syrian Civil War and remains so. In a recent edition of its newspaper The Socialist Worker (No 361), the party has continued to describe those involved in the armed opposition as “revolutionaries” and has dismissed reports that the opposition has increasingly become overrun with Islamists. It claims the “vast majority” is still carried out by FSA fighters.
The party also rejects foreign interference in the conflict saying: “Western powers want to retain influence in the region and help usher in a post Assad regime that will cooperate with them.
But interference from the West will not stop the suffering of ordinary Syrians resisting Assad’s dictatorship. Imperialist intervention can only lead to more bloodshed in the mission to create a puppet regime.”
The Workers’ Party of Ireland: The Workers’ Party is a minor Marxist political party in Ireland, active north and south, with elected representatives at local level. The party was formerly quite influential in Irish politics until 1992 when all but one its TDs joined the Labour Party.
It has outlined its support for the Syrian government saying and also those who protested peacefully against it, saying: “The Workers’ Party expressed its solidarity to the genuine, peaceful, social protests and just demands for economic, social, political and democratic changes in Syria but unequivocally rejects foreign political or military intervention in Syria, which is being currently planned by the USA, the EU, Israel and NATO in active collaboration with Turkey and a number of reactionary, anti-democratic monarchies in the Gulf region.”
The party added: “The state has a duty to protect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, provide security for its citizens and preserve the secular nature of the state. It is also essential that the armed forces are in a position to confront any attack by armed terrorist groups against civilians, law-enforcement members, the armed forces and private and public facilities.”
Other parties: Other parties, particularly in the North of Ireland, including the DUP, SDLP, UUP, Green Party and NI21 have not expressed opinions on the situation in Syria.



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