‘Neutrality is a policy issue that can change at any time’ declared Taoiseach Michael Martin. It was part of a concerted campaign to use the Ukraine crisis to erode Irish neutrality. The political establishment and the major media outlets have all sent out the same message: ‘We must grow up’ and ‘become mature’ and drop neutrality.
This is not the first time they have tried this. The Irish people voted against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 because it contained references to European defence. Under pressure from the EU, they made us vote a second time but gave a concession- Irish soldiers would only be sent to fight foreign wars if a ‘triple lock’ was opened: the government, the Dail and the UN security council would first have to agree.
As the world moves ever closer to a conflict between the US + allies and China + Russia, they want a free hand to deploy Irish soldiers in new battlefields.
Irish neutrality is part of an anti-colonial legacy that has deep roots in Irish society. It was originally invoked against the hypocrisy of Britain who claimed to be fighting for ‘freedom’ – yet was keeping countries like India in bondage.
Far from being obsolete, it is even more relevant today. The Western powers claim the mantle of ‘democracy’ against the ‘authoritarian’ regimes yet their hypocrisy is abundantly evident.
Despite calling for sanctions against Russia, for example, Simon Coveney has refused to support sanctions and an arms embargo against Israel even though they have occupied parts of Palestine for fifty years.
And while Joe Biden presents himself as the ‘leader of the free world’, his government has approved the sale of $500 worth of armaments to Saudi Arabia. Yet that country has invaded its neighbour Yemen, causing many deaths and famine.
Irish neutrality simply means that the country cannot join a military alliance. That can coincide with an active foreign policy that promotes human rights and denounces big state bullying. As Catherine Connolly TD has pointed out, it can have a positive aspect in pushing Ireland to the fore in promoting peace and diplomacy.
The armchair generals of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would have no hesitation in sending other people’s sons and daughters to fight battles in faraway places to help imperial powers. They have sent tiny numbers of Irish soldiers to Mali and Afghanistan.
But if they get their way, this will go much further and Irish soldiers could find themselves on the front lines of new wars between the big powers.
At a time when there is talk and threats of nuclear missiles, this is the last thing we need.
We need to stand up to the barrage of propaganda against neutrality. That starts this anti-war meeting on Monday which you can attend either in person or online.
Register for the meeting here https://www.pbp.ie/mon-14th-march-public-meeting-stop-putins-war-in-ukraine-wynnes-hotel-and-online/