Irish Neutrality, Military Neutrality & Active Military Neutrality

  • Posted on: 11 July 2020
  • By: shannonwatch

This article was written by Roger Cole, Chair of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) 

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master-that’s all”. (Alice in Wonderland)

For nearly 20 years Ireland has been a US Aircraft Carrier. Well over three million troops and an unknown amount of military equipment from the USA have landed in Shannon Airport to take part in the perpetual wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, and to help their ally Saudi Arabia.

Ireland is not a neutral state.

The problem for the successive governments over this period is that in poll after poll the Irish people continued to declare their support for neutrality. The last such poll was the RedC/RTE exit poll after the last EU Parliament elections in 2019 which showed that 82% of Irish people supported Irish Neutrality in all its aspects.

Despite the efforts of the Peace & Neutrality Alliance, Shannonwatch, the Galway Alliance Against War, the IAWM and other groups, the US troops kept coming to the USA Air Force base at Shannon on their way to these wars in which hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have been killed with the support of successive Irish Governments. These days, they are virtually the only planes landing at Shannon.

The reason why is of course that the governments decided to take the Humpty Dumpty attitude towards words. They came up with the words “military neutrality”, knowing that the real question is, “which is to be master-that’s all.” What military neutrality actually means Ireland is a de facto USA military ally, by being a USA Aircraft Carrier used extensively as a key part of its war machine. It also means participation in the creation of a EU Army via PESCO.

In short “military neutrality” is the exact opposite of the real meaning of “neutrality” which is defined in the Hague Convention of 1907.  In the case taken by Ed Horgan against the State in 2003, Mr Justice Kearns said that the 1907 Hague Convention V was asserted to be a declaration of customary international law. Various texts relied on by Ed Horgan certainly tended to support such an interpretation. The defendants had argued that a more qualified or nuanced form of neutrality also existed, being one, which had been practiced by this State for many years and indeed through the Second World War.

However, the judge said it did not appear to him that even that form of neutrality was to be seen as including the notion that granting of passage over its territory by a neutral state, for large number of troops and munitions from one belligerent state only on route to a theatre of war, was compatible with the status of neutrality in international law as stated in the Hague Convention.

The court was prepared to hold, therefore, that there was an identifiable rule of customary law in relation to the status of neutrality, whereunder, “a neutral state may not permit the movement of large numbers of troops or munitions of one belligerent state through its territory en route to a theatre of war with another.”

Judge Kearns however found that since Irish neutrality had only been policy, and not enshrined in the Irish Constitution or domestic law, the government had the right to end the policy of Irish Neutrality, which if course it had done and has replaced it with a de facto  collaboration with an endless war policy.

The 2020 FG/FF/Green Party Programme for Government however has now changed the term “military neutrality” to “active military neutrality”, the logic of which is that they intend to accelerate and expand it policy of supporting the endless wars of the USA actively, and to accelerate its integration into the EU military structures via PESCO. Indications of that change in strategy are most clearly expressed by its decision to termination of the Occupied Territories Bill and give their support to Israel, a strong ally of the US. That they are willing to do so just before the Israeli planned annexation of at least 30% of the West Bank in July is an indication of a profound and decisive move towards active participation in war.

The new Government, in confirmation of this change in policy has appointed Simon Coveney as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence.

However, as we have seen in the Brexit no vote in the UK, the Irish election result, the Covid 19 crisis, and more recently, the massive protests against racism in the USA, predictions that the Irish people will accept our deeper involvement and active support for the endless US/NATO/EU wars will not automatically happen.

Neutrality was advocated first by Wolf Tone in 1790.

Permanent Irish Neutrality in return for ensuring Ireland would not be used as a base for an attack on the UK, was advocated by the Irish Republican Delegation in its negotiations with the British Empire in the early 1920’s. Every TD of Dail Eireann bar one supported a policy of Irish Neutrality in World War 2. It is a deeply held value by the vast majority of the Irish people. The Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Green Party advocates of active involvement in the axis wars could fail.

Change is coming.  They cannot stop it. A core part of that change is termination of Irish involvement in perpetual wars. The creation of a United Irish Republic committed to an independent foreign policy with positive neutrality as its key component; pursued through a reformed United Nations is the objective of PANA. It used to be the core objective of the Irish people and their Governments.

Change in this case is a restoration of those values.