Experts believe it’s time for a national talk on Ireland’s military position, with some saying our stance so far has been based on “self-deception”.
Questions have been asked about Ireland’s military position after the EU announced last week it would fund the purchase of deadly weapons for a third country – Ukraine – for the first time. Irish funds are used to supply non-lethal equipment such as armor and fuel.
While Tánaiste Leo Varadkar conceded that Ireland should stand ready to defend itself without relying on neighbors to “save us”, government officials describe Ireland as politically neutral and militarily independent.
Retired Brigadier General Ger Aherne said that position was unjustifiable.
He said Ireland’s declaration of neutrality was a policy aimed at getting us through the Second World War at a time when the country was starved of resources and not investing in defense but showing some support for Allied forces.
We should be considered non-aligned, he added.
“This should have been a topic of conversation in Ireland since 1939,” Mr Aherne said.
“Essentially, our neutrality was designed to do two things. First: Tell the world that we are humanitarian saviors of the world — what we are not. Second, it was a ploy by politicians and officials not to spend money on the defense forces.
“Neutrality is a wartime attitude, and between conflicts, countries with ambitions to declare themselves neutral in wartime must build the capabilities and resources to be credibly neutral. Austria, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland do it in the opposite way to us. They have considerable ability to defend their neutrality. It’s not just “I’m neutral,” it’s about responsibility. Ireland has never had that.
“This is an example of the Irish’s capacity for self-deception.”
UCD International Relations Professor Ben Tonra said the idea of neutrality is complex and Ireland’s position has served us well but may need to be reconsidered.
“The dictionary definition is not taking sides in a dispute. So if Ireland were neutral, we would not take sides in the Middle East conflict, in Ukraine, in international justice, in international rights in country X and in the invasion of country Y,” Prof Tonra said.
This differs from the government’s description of neutrality and the public’s perception that it is “nice, good, pro-the-little-guy, anti-military, anti-nuclear, anti-imperialist and anti-war,” he added.
Prof Tonra said changing global dynamics could force Ireland to consider changes.
He believes a Republican Party victory could be a factor in the next US election after it was suggested that former US President Donald Trump may consider American withdrawal from the NATO alliance during his tenure. Prof Tonra said any future discussion of forming a combined EU defense would also force Ireland to reconsider its position. Meanwhile, Eastern European neighbors who have stood by Ireland during Brexit may ask us to return the favour, he added.
Rory Montgomery, a former diplomat who worked on the Irish team that negotiated the Good Friday Agreement and a key government adviser on Brexit talks, says it’s time for a national talk about our military position.
“There has never been an open debate about neutrality. When John Bruton became leader of Fine Gael he tried to start the debate, but it’s a very hot topic and politicians have generally decided that if we don’t deal with it, it’s better to keep it at a safe distance have to,” Mr Montgomery said.
“We didn’t have to face these problems like other countries. This is partly a function of our geography in far western Europe, far removed from the former Soviet Union. Other countries, Finland for example — a non-aligned neutral country whose situation is very different from ours and it has invested heavily in defense.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/neutrality-is-an-example-of-the-capacity-of-the-irish-for-self-delusion-41416089.html Neutrality is an “example of the Irish’s capacity for self-deception”