SIR – Setting aside the irony of raising such a debate at a time when their countries were remembering those who lost their lives in what is called ‘The Great War’, we have heard French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel talk about the establishment of an EU army.
In any future defence arrangement, it is to be imagined that the eyes of military planners will fall on Ireland as the location best positioned to accommodate the army bases, naval ports and air force bases that would be necessary to guard the EU’s western approaches.
It requires no stretch of the imagine to think what this might mean for our natural deep-water fjords in Bantry Bay and Killary Harbour, and our under-utilised airports at Shannon and Knock. These four ready-made locations – all with space around them for expansion and only tiny populations to disturb – would surely be seen as ready-to-go.
Here in the south west, would the people of Bantry be ready to accommodate the change that this might bring – economically, socially and structurally? Being, as it would be, a base for warships, submarines, radar and other top-secret installations, it is to be imagined that vantage points like the Goat’s Path would soon become a fenced off, no-go, no-stopping and no-photography area. For security purposes, it is expected that land and houses would be commandeered to create such restricted areas.
Bantry would see its population swell as a multi-lingual force of Baltic and Mediterranean sailors descend on the area, followed, one imagines, by those who would service their off-duty needs. In Mayo too, something similar could be envisaged for Leenane and small communities like Louisburg, while all along the Wild Atlantic Way, the roar of jets on training flights from Knock and Shannon would be a constant presence.
Reassured by the fact that Ireland is a militarily neutral nation, is this anything but fanciful scaremongering? After all, haven’t we got veto rights that would enable us to bat-away proposals of this kind? Some of us might think we have! The question is: would we have the strength to stand in lonely opposition to such an EU plan?
We had the chance to be so brave when the EU burdened us with our enormous debt. Then did we learn two important lessons: one, that Ireland has no friends in the EU and two, that when it comes to facing down pressure from that quarter, our courage suddenly evaporates.
As the UK prepares to Brexit from the EU, Ireland’s strategic location on the western fringes places us in the frame when it comes to guarding the Atlantic. It is for that reason that discussion of an EU army is of interest to us.
In this, we need not imagine, even for one moment, that our own military would be an opposing voice.
After all, what soldier would choose to guard a cash consignment in preference to real military action, imaginary or otherwise?