The neutrality of the Irish state, that most of its people support, is a myth. The Irish government has repeatedly stated that the state is militarily neutral but not politically. Since its armed forces are tiny it might be said that its military neutrality doesn’t matter but its politics does. It is also often said that its policy of neutrality is whatever its government decides it is.
Already the so-called policy of neutrality is variously referred to as ‘not clear’ and ‘flexible’, while the anti-communism of the cold war period was clear, and before that its neutrality in the Second World War was flexible in favour of the Allied powers. Before that, the sympathies of Catholic Ireland with the nationalist and fascist forces of Franco was widespread.
At the minute the Government hides behind a ‘triple lock’ which mandates that more than twelve members of the armed forces can be sent overseas on operations only if the operation has been approved by the UN, the Government, and a resolution of Dáil Éireann. It is now complaining about “the illegal and brutal full scale invasion of Ukraine by a permanent member of the UN Security Council”, and that because of the Russian and Chinese veto on the Council no sanction on Russia can be approved. No such calls were made when the US or British engaged in recent “illegal and brutal” invasions, and the contrast with the approach of other countries such as India and South Africa at the recent G20 meeting is glaring.
The political practice of the Irish state has been to allow US troops to stop-over at Shannon airport on their way to its various wars and to have a deal with the British Royal Air Force to police its airspace. It has refused to assert its sovereignty by checking suspected US rendition flights and has always made clear its support for ‘the West’. To think that a state so dependent on US investment and financial flows, plus its integration into the European Union, would be in any meaningful way neutral in the conflicts these various states are involved in is for the birds.
The claim to any sort of neutrality is not only bogus but also hypocritical and malevolent. Hypocritical, because in the Irish State’s recent application to join the UN Security Council it made much of its non-membership of NATO while flying kites domestically in order to facilitate the first steps to joining it. Leo Varadkar stated that trading on its former status as a colony had helped it gather support for Ukraine and oppose ‘Russian imperialism’. The level of hypocrisy would be astonishing were it not so common; it claimed its privileged victim status in alliance with all the Western powers that are members of NATO, are former colonial powers, and currently comprise the biggest imperialist alliance in the world. All very ‘anti-imperialist’.
It is malevolent because it has combined lying with efforts to support the war in as strong a way as it can, without eliciting opposition from its own people. So, it has ignored its own housing and homeless problem by welcoming one of the highest levels of Ukrainian refugees in order to demonstrate its political support. Should anyone fall for the idea that this is the expression of some sort of (welcome) humanitarian concern, the previous and continuing policy on asylum seekers of direct provision should be noted, as should the second class status applied to refugees who aren’t Ukrainian. Even with regard to Ukrainian refugees, Varadkar has made it clear on a number of occasions that while the door is open there’s nowhere to stay: the not so subtle message is ‘stay away’.
Implementation of the welcome has therefore stumbled from crisis measure to crisis measure with an eagerness the state did not previously display. The self-image of ‘Cead Mile fáilte’ (“a hundred thousand welcomes”) does not withstand historical examination, including the referendum on the right of children born in Ireland to citizenship, which was targeted at excluding the children of non-EU nationals born in the Irish State.
The recent government sponsored ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’, which was no more than an obvious attempt to advance the cause of NATO membership, majored on the threats to Irish security, while commentary has often focused on the vulnerability of undersea cabling off the Irish coast linking the US to Europe. No one was so impolitic at this Forum to mention the threat to underwater infrastructure from the Americans, responsible for blowing up the new Nordstream gas pipeline to Germany.
The deceitful nature of the Forum was indirectly exposed by the Dame of the British Empire who was invited to oversee the proceedings. She remarked that “I really don’t know any other country where they’ve done something like this, really tried to engage the entire population in an open conversation about a county’s role in the world, – national security is variably restricted to small groups of senior officials and decision makers.”
In fact, the Irish State is no different in this respect from other capitalist states, as the example of US military flights through Shannon airport demonstrates, and now the support given to Ukraine. The Forum was not an exercise in conversing with the people of Ireland but an occasion to lecture them about the necessity to get on board with the rest of the West, led by the US, in its increasing polarisation of the world and aggression against its competitors – Russia and China.
The Irish government claimed that its support for Ukraine was only going to involve provision of ‘non-lethal’ training to its armed forces, which included training in clearing mines and equipping it with two de-mining vehicles. Its ministers repeatedly emphasised the humanitarian nature of the training being provided. This claim was already something of a joke, given that clearing minefields was a crucial element of the Ukrainian offensive in which its armed forces have been thrown into a headlong assault against long-prepared Russian defences, only to be slaughtered in their tens of thousands. All for the sake of complying with the United States and the Zelensky regime, with the miserable result of the uncertain capture of small settlements that have been utterly destroyed in the process. Lives exchanged for a few kilometres of bloody ruins.
The revelation that the ‘non-lethal’ training also includes weapons training and military tactics has exposed the government as liars. Even the correspondent from the rabidly pro-war ‘Irish Times’ was compelled to admit that this was ‘a significant departure from the Government’s public position that Ireland is providing only non-lethal support. Weapons training was not included in public announcements by the Government of the Defence Forces participation in the EU training mission. It contrasts with a statement by Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin earlier this year that the training would be in “non-lethal” areas.’
There was no reference to weapons training in any Government statements in the Dáil during debates on Irish involvement, yet in July the Cabinet had authorised this extension of support. Just like other capitalist states, in Ireland “national security is variably restricted to small groups of senior officials and decision makers.” The policy of neutrality is indeed whatever the government decides it is.
The Department of Defence stated that the training presented “no conflict” with Irish military neutrality and denied any attempt to mislead the public on the nature of the training. It also said the training previously announced, which did not include any mention of weapons training, “was always intended to be indicative rather than exhaustive”. It was, it said, only a “modest step-up”.
What this “modest step-up” demonstrates is that the Irish State, through its participation in the EU’s Military Assistance Mission Ukraine (Eumam), is participating in a proxy war against Russia. It therefore also appropriates its own share of responsibility for its horrific results.
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