Question: Are we Neutral?

Dublinstreams asks this question in a comment on “Back on the Canvass” and its taken me awhile (between Work, Pride, trying to get a game up and running and Scouts) to come up with an answer.

Before I can answer the question we have to define what neutrality is. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law Neutral is defined as:

not engaged on either side; specifically : not aligned with a political or ideological grouping

During the Cold War we were to an extent. But lately Irish neutrality is less copper fastened and this is not due to the EU, but to our own Governments.

The Wikipedia Article on Irish Neutrality shows the difference between the Irish concept of Neutrality and the internationally accepted one. These include:

* Neutral states maintain strong defence forces, Ireland has a relatively small defence force.
* Neutral states do not allow any foreign military within their territory, Ireland has a long history of allowing military aircraft of various nations to refuel at Shannon Airport. Under the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order, 1952, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, exceptionally, could grant permission to foreign military aircraft to overfly or land in the State. Confirmation was required that the aircraft in question be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and that the flights in question would not form part of military exercises or operations.

In September 2001 it was “waived in respect of aircraft operating in pursuit of the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1368” (Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dail Debate 17 December 2002).

I think it is disingenuous to describe Ireland as a Neutral State, Ireland has supported campaigns in the past, including the campaign known as Operation Allied Force, part of the Kosovo War, and the invasion of Afghanistan in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks known as Operation Enduring Freedom.

A better description would be non-aligned where we take part in conflicts on a case by case basis, unlike Switzerland and Sweden which are explicitly neutral.

To quote Wikipedia:

Neutrality in Ireland is generally taken to mean non-participation in a conflict unless approved by the so called triple-lock (the Government, Dáil Éireann, and the UN Security Council); when Irish leaders say Ireland is a neutral country, it is this triple-lock that they are referring to.

This of course leads to wide interpretations and means neutrality has lost in meaning in the Irish Concept, due to differing opinions.

Where do the parties stand?

Neutrality in its literal sense, in a way similar to Sweden and Switzerland, is supported by the Labour Party, Green Party, Sinn Féin, and the Socialist Party, however they have different ways of defining neutrality.

Fianna Fáil formally supports the traditional policy, the “triple-lock”.

The Progressive Democrats have generally not supported the idea of neutrality in all circumstances. Former party leader Mary Harney has stated “you cannot be neutral between democrat and dictator, you can’t be neutral between right and wrong.”

And according to Wikipedia, which I didn’t know, Fine Gael want Ireland to join European Common Defence, which allows the country to choose on a case by case basis the extent of its involvement in conflicts outside the European Union, but commits to collective security in case of actual attack on any member, meaning it wants to abandon the triple-lock. I must go look this up!

At the end of the day, I personally do not think Ireland is neutral, the Treaty of Lisbon will do nothing to change this as we will still retain the triple lock. A way of making Ireland neutral, in the proper sense, would be to have it stated in the Constitution, to ensure it is copper fastened, abandon the triple lock (why should China have a veto over our military?), increase our military capabilities, among other possible steps.

Why do ye think?

Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

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