Irish neutrality under threat
Irish neutrality under threat


The 26 County Tánaiste Micheál Martin has begun to erode Ireland’s long-standing and internationally respected policy of military neutrality.

Ireland is one of the three largest remaining neutral countries in Europe, alongside Switzerland and Austria, after Sweden and Finland abandoned their neutrality last year in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The increasing use of Shannon Airport by the US military, and recent revelations of a secret deal between the Dublin government and Britain’s air force, have provoked an increasing debate over the real status of the 26 Counties as a neutral country.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, Micheál Martin claimed that Ireland’s position as an island nation on the periphery of Europe brought “risks and threats”, without giving any details.

He claimed a cyber attack on computers used by the Health Service and attacks on undersea cables were reasons to move closer to NATO.

A public forum is to be organised to allow for an “open and honest” discussion on what military neutrality means for Ireland in the current geopolitical environment and what other options may exist.

“We will discuss whether we need to define more clearly what we do, and do not, mean by military neutrality,” Martin told the Dáil.

“We will also discuss whether our policy of military neutrality is fit for purpose in addressing the 21st century threats that we face.”

The forum will involve “citizens, experts, academics and service personnel”, and will take place between June 22-27 in Cork, Galway and Dublin.

“I have said previously that our policy of military neutrality can and must be an important part of the discussion at the Forum, but equally that these questions must not be reduced to a simplistic binary choice.

“Staying as we are today, or immediately seeking to join a military alliance such as NATO, are not the only options,” he said.

In a major speech, the Tánaiste called for ‘greater involvement’ with neighbouring countries and claimed that Ireland’s participation in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy had reaped “significant benefits” for the 26 County State.

Significantly, his speech revealed that Ireland is negotiating an updated partnership framework with NATO.

“No one country acting alone can respond effectively to cyber threats that can emanate from anywhere in the world; threats whose sophistication and complexity grow by the day,” he declared.

Matt Carthy, Sinn Féin Defence spokesperson, said that his party supports continued Irish neutrality and that the government should use a citizens’ assembly to debate the merits of changing the policy.

He listed out his party’s belief that Ireland should continue to play a role in peace building, humanitarianism and diplomacy.

“An independent foreign policy and military neutrality are crucial to allow Ireland to play that important World Role in the wider world.

“We should be proud of our military neutrality and resist attempts by someone government to recast it as a weakness or a failing the legacy of Irish neutrality is our role in working for nuclear Non Proliferation and humanitarianism, in contributing to the drafting of the convention on human rights and fundamental freedoms in peacekeeping,” he said.

Mr Carthy said that his party welcomed discussion on the topic but added that it was critical to involve the people in those discussions. He said his party will engage with the Forum but he believes it is the wrong way to address the key issue of Irish neutrality and foreign policy.

The Sinn Féin deputy said that his party wants to enshrine the concept of neutrality in the Irish constitution.

“Those of us on the left and others who value neutrality have over the past two decades been very good at articulating what we are opposed to not so good at setting up the positive and constructive role that neutrality can help Ireland play internationally into the future,” he added.

Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before profit accused the ruling coalition parties of moving Ireland to a militarised footing.

“(The Forum) is part of a sustained campaign by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to dismantle Irish neutrality, and that that agenda of undermining, eroding and dismantling Ireland’s neutrality is a long standing objective of the two major parties in government.

“And that you are cynically using the horrendous situation in Ukraine and the barbaric invasion by Russia of Ukraine to advance a project within NATO and the European Union of ratcheting up the militarisation of the European Union.

“Developing a European army moving closer to United States foreign policy in a way that is probably the greatest threat to Ireland’s security,” he said.

Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín condemned the apparent decision decided to dump the ‘triple lock mechanism’, long the corner stone of Ireland’s neutrality, which requires a mandate from the United Nations, a government decision and a Dáil vote to send more than 12 troops overseas.

“Ireland has a proud history of active neutrality. Our record on UN peacekeeping, nuclear non-proliferation, decolonisation, and aid to developing countries is second to none,” he said. “Ireland has an internationally recognised position of an honest broker. This is about to be shredded.”

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