In full support of peace and freedom for the people of Ukraine, Irish nationalists and republicans have been leading calls for a reassertion of Ukraine’s national sovereignty and for an end to military expansions across the world.
With reports of thousands of civilian and military casualties in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ireland’s military neutrality, which prohibits the country from joining military alliances, has come under the most severe pressure since the end of the Second World War.
EU militarists are pressing for a full militarisation of the bloc and by supporting the inclusion of Ukraine, laying the ground work for a provocative expansion to the Russian border.
The 26 County government has been indicating it supports an increased role for the 26 County Army. Tanaiste Leo Varadkar appeared to defy the Irish constitution when he simply told the Dublin parliament that “Ireland is not a neutral country”.
Ireland’s participation in any European common defence initiative would require a referendum, but neutrality is a “policy issue that can change at any time”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin added, without explanation.
As Russian tank divisions and warplanes continue to blast their way to Kyiv, it has been a week of extraordinary political developments.
Russian militarists sought to justify their invasion of Ukraine by comparing it to Britain’s actions in support of unionists in Ireland.
Further details emerged of the scale of Russian funding of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, casting a new light on their hard Brexit agenda.
And most ironically, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to prosecute Russian leader Vladimir Putin for his forces’ war crimes in Ukraine, even as he continues to call for an amnesty for the war crimes Britain has perpetrated in Ireland.
Despite divisions on the next steps, every major political party in Ireland including Sinn Féin has continued to condemn the Russian invasion and has backed ‘strong’ sanctions against Russia.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, condemned what he said was a “naked act of aggression” against “the sovereign State of Ukraine”.
“Whatever rationale that President Putin offers in his attempts to frame his actions, the reality is that Russia is giving vent to its leader’s imperialist ambitions in the region,” he said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called for the expulsion of the Russian Ambassador to Ireland and urged the EU to use economic sanctions “of such scale” that Putin and his oligarch supporters “will pay a huge price for choosing the course of military conflict over dialogue and diplomacy.”
Meanwhile, there are strong fears in Ireland that the EU is rapidly pivoting to a full-blown military alliance, contiguous with NATO. Sections of the left have been calling for a much more nuanced approach to the invasion.
Irish MEPs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace made international headlines when they were among a small minority to vote against a resolution on the Russian invasion at the European Parliament. Among other goals, that resolution called for arms to be sent to support the Ukrainian resistance, for closer ties between the EU and NATO, and for the importation of shale gas from the US.
“Our vote was not against condemning Russian aggression,” they wrote later. “It was against flooding Ukraine with weapons. It was against a retaliatory spiral of military escalation, endangering all of Europe. It was against cynically exploiting an invasion of Ukraine to advance the interests of the fossil fuel industry during a climate crisis, endangering the whole planet.”
Independent TD and Dáil Leas-Cheann Comhairle (deputy speaker) Catherine Connolly warned separately about the drive towards an even greater conflagration.
“We should be raging against any possibility of war. We should be using our voice as a neutral country, which is a powerful voice that has long been recognised and given respect,” she said.
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín called for a full parliamentary debate on Ireland’s stance.
“The EU is taking an unprecedented step of providing a half a billion euro of arms to the Ukraine,” he warned. “This is a radical change in what the EU is for. It will have serious potential future ramifications. The Dáil must debate this.”
People before Profit called for support to be provided to Russia’s peaceful anti-war movement, rather than any military response or support for a NATO agenda. It denounced economic sanctions, which they claimed EU leaders know will not work, as hypocritical.
“Where are the sanctions on Israel which have been in occupation of Palestinian territory for more than fifty years?” they asked.
“Why have they not isolated Saudi Arabia whose invasion of Yemen has already led to the deaths of over a quarter of a million civilians? And why is no one pointing to the rank hypocrisy of the USA who occupied Afghanistan for more than twenty years against the clear wishes of the majority of its people?”
There was also a strong statement by Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland.
“The Irish people have always been anti-imperialist,” they said. “Now is not the time to drop that long held principle by being brainwashed by NATO propaganda. We must oppose all forms of imperialism whether it is US, British or Russian.”
However, the 26 County Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, insisted that the time for diplomacy is “over”. He described the Russian invasion as not only an attack on Ukraine, but on the whole of Europe, and promised “very direct and very hard-hitting” sanctions against Russia, adding: “This a moment when the European Union needs to act together.”
However, he accepted the 26 County state would “constructively abstain” from the EU’s planned delivery of arms to Ukraine.
Irish President Michael D Higgins said “a great sense of darkness” had fallen across the world at the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine. In a statement Mr Higgins said: “The hearts of the Irish people go out to all of those who are suffering from this completely unacceptable, immoral and unjustified violence.”
Mr Higgins said “the rise of militarism must end. Full humanitarian access must be given to all civilians in need”.
The President also called on those inflicting violence to reflect on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He said “it is essential that the peoples of the world come together and demand the peace that in the Charter of the United Nations was not only an alternative to war, but where our best hopes for humanity lie.”