Government MEPs have reacted angrily to a charge by Sinn Féin that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green MEPs voted to "[roll] back neutrality" during a European Parliament vote this week.
Sinn Féin's spokesperson on foreign affairs and defence John Brady TD had on Wednesday accused the Government parties of attempting "to remove Ireland’s veto in Europe" by voting in favour of a report on EU foreign and security policy during a plenary session in Strasbourg.
In a statement, Mr Brady said: "It is no secret that there are interests at the heart of Government, and among Irish MEPs in Brussels, who are intent on rolling back Irish neutrality.
"Unlike my Sinn Féin MEP colleague Chris MacManus, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green MEPs today voted in the European Parliament to use Irish taxpayers’ money to fund a military industrial complex on the continent."
However, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens accused Sinn Féin of misrepresenting the vote.
On Wednesday a majority of MEPs in the European Parliament adopted a report by the foreign affairs committee on the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP) which called for the European Union to adopt more flexible decision making in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Neither the vote nor the report are binding on member states.
Among other recommendations the report said member states should use provisions within the EU treaty to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting (QMV) when it came to human rights abuses and sanctions against Russia.
Last year Hungary, which has maintained close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, used its veto to hold up sanctions against Russia for weeks.
The rapporteur of the report, David McAllister MEP, said: "Unanimity voting…clearly constrains the EU’s ability to react rapidly. The trade-off between the ideal of unity and the high costs of unanimity in terms of effectiveness must be seen more critically."
In a statement Fianna Fáil MEPs said they "absolutely reject the accusations from Sinn Féin that they voted to remove Ireland’s veto in Europe on foreign and security related issues."
"Across numerous amendments, and in particular amendment 76, 82, 83, 85 tabled to the report into the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Fianna Fáil MEPs voted to retain the unanimity requirement for decisions. In fact, we voted in the exact same way as the Sinn Féin MEP, including on the Final Vote, where we abstained.
"In addition, in another report into the Commons Security and Defence Policy, our MEPs supported amendment 2, just like the Sinn Féin MEP did. Again, on the Final Vote, we abstained, just like Mr. MacManus.
"These amendments, either amending the text or deleting language supportive of moving to Qualified Majority Voting away from unanimity, clearly demonstrate our party's stance on this important issue.
"Perhaps Sinn Féin had their press release written before the votes took place and jumped the gun when releasing it. We'll never know. However, the simple fact is that their statement, in the name of their Foreign Affairs Spokesperson accusing Fianna Fáil MEPs of something they didn’t do, is plain wrong."
Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune MEP said: "We underline that while Ireland is militarily neutral, we are not politically neutral when it comes to Russia's illegal and barbaric war against Ukraine. We are not and never have been politically neutral in the face of the bombardment of cities and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
"The Fine Gael MEPs do not oppose and would not seek to block other EU Member States from providing military assistance, including weapons, should they wish to do so, in order to help Ukraine defend itself."
A Fine Gael source said the party had voted in favour of an amendment that underlined the neutrality of Ireland and three other EU member states which would be outside NATO (following Sweden and Finland’s accession).
The amendment said the European Parliament "expresses its opinion that this reality should also be acknowledged as a major factor while discussing any further deepening of the EU's role in security and defence."
A Green Party spokesperson said: "Contrary to a statement from Sinn Féin spokesperson, Green Party MEPs voted to abstain on the reports on CFSP and [common foreign and defence] CSDP in the European Parliament this week.
"Despite the reports’ many positive aspects ensuring the EU is an effective and relevant foreign policy actor, we could not support calls for the introduction of Qualified Majority Voting for foreign policy decisions.
"We feel strongly that unanimity in foreign policy decisions including military operations is important to uphold the neutrality of countries like Ireland and Austria."
In Davos on Thursday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar rejected Sinn Féin’s interpretation of the vote.
"Ireland is a neutral country, we're not going to be joining any military alliances like NATO," he told reporters.
"But we are deeply involved in European common security, foreign and defence policy. We've been taking part in that now for quite some time and we want that to continue."
"We believe in Europe, we believe in European integration. We want to be at the heart of Europe. A Sinn Féin government would have us at the edge of Europe and would be vetoing further European integration. And that's not what Irish people want," he said.