HAS the government finally abandoned Ireland’s long-standing policy of neutrality? And, if so, on whose authority?
This time 10 years ago, Irish citizens were so concerned that our cherished neutrality would be lost if we passed the Lisbon Treaty that they voted to reject the Treaty in a referendum. It wasn’t until the European Union gave legally-binding guarantees that it was ratified after a re-run of the referendum 16 months later.
So, what has changed since? The government for starters. Fianna Fáil’s founding father, Eamon De Valera, was one of the staunchest defenders of Ireland’s neutrality policy, which was adopted prior to the Second World War.
However, Fine Gael politicians, now leading the government, do not seem to be too concerned about preserving our neutrality – the latest example having been the expulsion of a Russian diplomat in solidarity with the UK for the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Whatever about British Prime Minister Theresa May’s assurances that the Russian government was behind the attack, and despite denials from the Kremlin, our government bowed to peer pressure to expel one of their diplomats for alleged espionage activities and they showed their displeasure at us by expelling an Irish diplomat from Moscow in return.
All the token action achieved was a black mark against us in the Russians’ books, which will have an inevitable consequence for us down the road sometime. We will only find out then if that type of act was worth it – we all condemn the nerve agent attack, but calling in the Russian ambassador to express our concerns about it would have been a much more measured and appropriate response in the eyes of most people here.
Our neutrality is merely a policy. It is not enshrined in the Irish Constitution and would need approval in a referendum to do so.
This is hardly likely, judging by the way the government is steadily working on undermining it with actions such as joining EU defence body Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO), which many regard as a precursor to a European army, ironically to deter the Russians in case Putin is thinking of annexing territory on his western front!
Maybe the time has now come to have a plebiscite on our neutrality?