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Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 110: June 2003

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News.]

Neutral Ireland is dead and gone?

The recent Iraqi war illustrated some realities about current Irish government international policy. One reality is that it will effectively back the big western powers of the USA, the UK, and, where applicable, the EU. Any military 'muscle' that the Republic could add would be totally insignificant so its help is given as moral (immoral) support and assistance in kind (Shannon for US planes to refuel and stop over). When faced with a moral dilemma (attacking Iraq without a UN mandate, despite initially emphasising it as essential) the Taoiseach and government will wriggle, and wriggle and come out with any old gobbledegook to avoid taking a moral stand; as recorded here previously, the Taoiseach declared it not to be a 'pre-emptive' strike by the USA and UK because they had informed the UN and said why they were doing it! What utter and despicable nonsense.

What price the policy of de Valera in trying to develop the League of Nations in the 1930s? What price Frank Aiken, Minister for External Affairs for Fianna Fail, and his significant role in developing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the early 1960s? Like the people involved, the policies seem dead and buried. Our economic interest lie with our friends and kin in the USA, the Dáil was repeatedly told, so we should back them. The 26 counties fought a war of independence to leave a great empire; parts of society now seems keen to join the current greatest empire. The Irish government eventually got its way on the Nice Treaty, but they had to put the question twice to get the answer they wanted ('Twice as Nice').

Fine Gael has now declared itself in favour of ditching military neutrality and backing a common EU 'defence'. And an Irish Times poll (17th May) showed a majority of voters (58%) supporting a future EU common defence so long as Ireland can opt in or out of particular military actions; 19% said Ireland should not join in any circumstances. The poll also showed a strong swing in support of Irish government policy allowing US armed forces the use of Shannon airport, now 51% approved and 39% disapproved (the most interesting unanswered question here is - why have people changed their minds? And what role did US and British lies play in this change of view? The Irish Times correspondent put it down to a relatively short war and 'with comparatively few casualties').

While some continued EU developments are welcome, the advent of a common EU military policy is not one of them. And the risk continues that 'Fortress Europe' will not only economically dominate the globe along with the USA but become a superpower in its own wrong. There is some hope, given the reactions to the US-UK war plan for Iraq, that the EU might act more responsibly than the US. But it is only a hope. When EU interests are directly threatened then logic and decency may go out the window.

When do we declare Irish neutrality dead? And how do we wake it (in two senses of the word)? It is also true that, positive examples not withstanding, it was never carefully defined and at times or for some people was reactive only, being forged as a form of anti-Britishness. But the examples above are honourable ones on the world stage of which Irish people can be proud; the Irish role in the UN in general, and in military peacekeeping in particular, is also an honourable one.

There may be Irish politicians in future with the guts and determination to push, on a European stage or the lesser Irish one, for positive, progressive, liberatory foreign policies. The stated policy on world debt relief is already a positive one. Irish military neutrality may not actually be dead yet but it has certainly taken a turn for the worse in its hospital bed.

But it would be wrong for progressive forces to put all their eggs in the neutrality basket. The Republic may be a small fish in a big European pond but it can still, if it chooses, cause ripples. The formal abandonment of military neutrality is not desirable but at a certain point it may simply be recognising reality, and honesty may require it. It will be a sad day but we can still fight for justice, global equality, and peace. The end of neutrality will not be the end of the world. But it will be the end of an era when the Republic stood aside or even pretended to stand aside from the great power blocs - what an irony that after the end of the Cold war it should become much closer to the western power bloc!

History is full of such ironies. Strike while the irony is hot.

Information on the High Court decision regarding Edward Horgan's unsuccessful constututional challenge on US military use of Shannon Airport can be found at the following sites (thanks to Eoin Dubsky for information);

Damned Lies
It is not all that long after the Iraq war and already the lies used to go to war are being exposed. It is clear that elements within both US and UK administrations were totally unsure of what was being put out as fact regarding weapons of mass destruction. And the allegation that Iraq not only had such weapons (WMD) but could launch an attack using them within 45 minutes was pure fiction, added to 'intelligence' reports at the insistence of the British Prime Minister or his office.

Expect further revelations as time goes on. The world in general is glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime. But the world does not appreciate being lied too with such arrogance to justify a war whose consequences will continue to be worked out in the years to come - in both Iraq and internationally through increased attacks by groups like al Qaeda. And it is clear that the USA and UK had had far too little thought about the aftermath of war in Iraq - or maybe everything we were told was just lies anyway. For example, the London 'Independent' newspaper of 10th May devoted half its broadsheet front page to blatant lies told by the British and US American governments on oil, the UN, weapons, aid and the future government of Iraq.

Most of the world saw through the British and US lies before the war. Many Irish people and the Irish government seem duped into supporting the use of Shannon airport on spurious grounds. It is to be hoped now the war is over that all can realise the lies that were told so that next time there is less gullibility and more resistance.

Copyright INNATE 2021