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Opinion: 'The Neutrality Bill would exclude Ireland from being an active supporter of perpetual war'

A clear and decisive majority of Irish people are in favour of enshrining neutrality in our Constitution, writes Roger Cole.

Roger Cole

ON NOVEMBER 24 Dáil Eireann will debate a Neutrality Bill which would enshrine neutrality into our Constitution. If the members of the Dáil accurately reflected the will of the people, they would vote in favour of the bill.

Irish support for neutrality

A Red C poll in February of this year asked the people: “Ireland has always claimed to be a neutral country. However, that neutrality is not enshrined in the Irish Constitution.
Do you think the Constitution should be changed to enshrine Ireland’s neutrality?”

The results were:

  • In favour: 57%
  • Against: 39%
  • Don’t know: 4%

So while a sizeable minority are against it, a clear and decisive majority are in favour. The cost of holding such a referendum would not be so high if it was held on the same day as the proposed amendment to the Constitution on the national ownership of Irish water.

The concept of Irish neutrality is not new, it was first advocated by Theobald Wolfe Tone in 1790. It was not a passing value either but it was strongly supported by all those that took part in the 1916 Rising and in our national war of Independence against the British Union and Empire. Neutrality was sustained well into the twentieth century.

There were always people in Ireland who opposed our independence, democracy and neutrality. They convinced themselves that the European Union was a peace project and strongly advocated the transfer of power away from the Irish people and their democratic institutions, and into the European Union and its institutions. Even when the people voted “no”, they were just forced to vote again until they gave the right answer.

A world continually at war

But if we had won, then other states might also have rejected the growing commitment by the ruling elite to the doctrine of perpetual war. However to date the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) has not been successful. Why is this? The answer is sad but simple, the EU is a child of the Cold War, a collection of states subservient to the US, and no more so than Ireland. In 2001 Ireland terminated its longstanding policy of neutrality.

It became a US aircraft carrier allowing over 2.5 million US troops and a massive amount of weapons to land in Shannon Airport. The term “military neutrality” used by those that destroyed neutrality, is just a total fantasy.

Of course, for many years supporters of the European Union seemed to be correct, and even now very few people envisage another war between Germany, France and the UK. In Ireland, groups like PANA who make the case that the EU is steadily developing into to a military superstate, are largely ignored. While we agree that war between Germany and France is extremely unlikely, we focus on making the case that Ireland, like Denmark, could remain a member of the EU without being involved in its growing military dimension.

Creeping militarisation of EU

Successive Irish governments have continued to actively support Ireland’s integration into the growing military power via the EU Battle Groups and the European Defence Agency. The latest decision to establish an EU Military HQ was just the continuation of this long process, the objective being the creation of a European Army of a United European State, allied and subservient to the USA. The fact that the US-dominated NATO at its Lisbon conference in 2010 recognised the EU as a strategic military ally and that the NATO/EU links were made even stronger at the recent NATO conference in Warsaw, is proof of this reality.

However these endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and the deliberately created confrontation with Russia, promoted by the NATO/EU axis, have inevitably created millions of refugees, some of whom fled to Europe. This has created new political formations that reject the doctrine of perpetual war. The whole idea of Europe as a peace project, if it ever had any reality, has been totally shattered by the policies of the current EU/NATO leaders.

A vote by the members of the Dáil in favour of the Neutrality Bill would exclude Ireland from being an active supporter of the doctrine of perpetual war, especially if in the subsequent referendum, the people voted for enshrining neutrality into the Irish Constitution. It might also be part of a wider movement among the peoples of the US and Europe to reject the doctrine of perpetual war. The massive support for Corbyn and Sanders in the UK and the US might not be flukes, but a harbinger of a better future, and a key part of that process is to relaunch Europe as a peace project.

Russia Military Drills Russian soldiers carry their equipment during military drills in Crimea. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Russia is not our enemy

If the core idea of Europe as a peace project is to be renewed then we need to go back to the origins of the  concept, that after two horrific world wars, war in Europe as a means of resolving problems needs to totally rejected. This would also encompass Russia, which suffered over 24 million deaths as a consequence of World War 2. Russia needs to become a European partner, not an enemy.

It needs to be recognised that Crimea was part of Russia, long before the EU came into existence, and before even the USA came into existence. In short, Crimea should be recognised as part of Russia and sanctions should be immediately lifted. For a start Russia and the EU/NATO axis should mutually agree to withdraw their troops from the Russia/EU border. The EU/NATO axis and Russia should also cooperate together to defeat ISIS  in Syria and Iraq, an option only if all other groups are involved in a peace settlement.

A European-Russian partnership

The objective should be to create a Europe, including Russia, that is a partnership of sovereign European states without a military dimension. This would include a neutral independent Ireland, a country that supports the United Nations as they only inclusive global institution responsible for international security that offers a better and peaceful future.

It is an idea that is hardly new, having been advocated by Gorbachev and Franklin Roosevelt. The Irish Neutrality Bill should be seen as just part of that process.

Roger Cole is the Chair of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance

It’s high time for neutrality to be enshrined in the Constitution – don’t let the government backtrack>

Tom Clonan: Why it’s time to have an open and honest debate about our neutrality>

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About the author:

Roger Cole

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