Members of the Irish parliament have tabled a bill that would embed international neutrality in the Irish constitution.
The bill has been put forward by Seán Crowe and Aengus Ó Snodaigh of Sinn Féin. Ireland has technically been neutral since the state’s founding. But Sinn Féin has argued that over the years Irish governments have “eroded” Ireland’s neutrality. This includes allowing the US military to use Shannon Airport as a stop-off and refuelling point for its aircraft transporting troops to and from the Middle East. During the invasion of Iraq, then US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld even visited Shannon Airport to meet US troops on their way to Iraq.
Understanding the bill
The bill states that Ireland will never participate in or declare a war unless:
it is immediately necessary in defence of the State and with the assent of Dáil Éireann.
What’s more, it insists:
To this end the State shall, in particular, maintain a policy of non-membership of military alliances.
Why Irish neutrality is important
A Sinn Féin member of the European parliament (MEP) argued on Twitter why Irish neutrality is important:
Today TDs will vote on Sinn Féin’s bill on Irish neutrality; by supporting they will be protecting Ireland’s reputation, making our people safer and saving us millions! What side will Fianna Fáil & Fine Gael be on? pic.twitter.com/E82fY0M4rd
— Matt Carthy MEP (@mattcarthy) April 11, 2019
The surest and best way to protect Irish Neutrality is to have it enshrined in the Constitution.
Ensuring Irish neutrality
Sinn Féin has declared that it’s time for Irish people themselves to have a say on neutrality:
Sinn Féin Defence Spokesperson @aosnodaigh is speaking in the Dáil on Sinn Féin's proposition to enshrine neutrality in Bunreacht na hÉireann.
It is high time for the Irish people to have their say on this issue before we are sleepwalked into a European Army in the future. pic.twitter.com/meQ7lYwkI8
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) April 9, 2019
Ó Snodaigh, one of the bill’s sponsors, has pointed to the possibility of Ireland being part of an EU-wide army:
— Aengus O Snodaigh TD (@aosnodaigh) April 9, 2019
And during the debate on the bill, Ó Snodaigh called on the government to:
Put it to the people; what has the Government got to be afraid of?
Ireland’s military involvement
The context for this is Ireland’s increasing involvement with EU military initiatives. Ireland has joined the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). As a result, this commits Ireland to increasing its spending on military and defence. The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has gone on record defending this arrangement:
Quite simply, he said:
We want to be involved in PESCO.
But Irish MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan has previously warned about the dangers of PESCO:
“In the long term we’ve got to work for a European Army”
This is the leader of the biggest group in the European Parliament @epp He is also the leader of the @finegael group in the EP.
Don’t say you weren’t warned. #Pesco pic.twitter.com/EEtdZlWACU
— Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (@lukeming) June 13, 2018
And more to the point, he argued that PESCO has nothing to do with peace:
— Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (@lukeming) March 12, 2018
No neutrality and no security
The government has said that it’s against Sinn Féin’s bill. Because of this, Ireland will likely stay involved with PESCO and more EU militarisation.
There are many people in Ireland who agree, however, that the country will not become more secure by abandoning its neutrality.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Irish Defence Forces
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