Ireland’s policy on neutrality and defence to be reviewed by public forum

Other topics up for discussion include peacekeeping, conflict prevention, international arms control and challenges posed by new and emerging threats

A National Consultative Forum on Ireland’s international security policy which will deliberate on issues like neutrality and defence is to take place in June under plans to be discussed by the Cabinet on Wednesday.

The forum is to be conducted across four days in Dublin, Cork and Galway under the initiative developed by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin said last year that there should be discussion on Ireland’s neutrality following the Russian war on Ukraine.

Other neutral European countries such as Finland and Sweden have sought to join Nato as a result of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, with Finland being accepted into the alliance on Tuesday.


Sources here stressed that the consultative forum in Ireland is not intended as the start of a major change in neutrality policy, such as potentially joining Nato, nor will its deliberations solely focus on neutrality.

Other topics for discussion will include engagement in peacekeeping, conflict prevention, international arms control and challenges posed by new and emerging threats.

The forum will be open to the general public to make submissions – both in person and online – and it will also hear from experts and academics.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine, advances in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and plans for investment in the Defence Forces following a recent commission examining how it is resourced are said to have prompted plans for holding the forum.

It is hoped within Government that it will build a deeper level of understanding of the threats faced by the State including areas such as cyber, hybrid and at sea, and the forum will examine the security policy options available.

Aspects of the Citizens’ Assembly model will be used and an independent chairperson is to be appointed.

Ultimately a report on the forum’s deliberations could be used to inform any future recommendations to Government on Ireland’s international security policy.

Mr Martin is also expected to seek approval from the Government and the Dáil for a naval vessel to take part in the EU’s Operation Irini mission in the Mediterranean.

The main task of the EU operation is to prevent arms trafficking in Libya in accordance with a United Nations Security Council Resolution that aims to help end the long-running conflict there. Other elements of the operation are preventing illicit petrol exports from Libya, training the country’s coast guard and navy, and disrupting human trafficking networks.

Extensive planning meetings have been taking place within the Naval Service regarding the mission in recent weeks and a suitable ship has been identified. The deployment of a Naval Service vessel would be for a period of almost seven weeks in June and July.

Separately, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath is set to update Cabinet on plans to bring in an effective tax rate of 15 per cent for multinationals that have an annual turnover of €750 million or more.

Mr McGrath is to brief colleagues on the EU Minimum Tax Directive recently agreed in the wake of the international tax deal stuck under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Countries have scope to apply the minimum effective 15 per cent tax rate in various ways under the OECD agreement.

Under Ireland’s plans, the existing 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate will remain in place for the vast majority of businesses.

Separately, it is understood that ministers will discuss a memo to formally establish a new unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to co-ordinate efforts to reduce child poverty.

The aim of the unit is said to be to build on existing Government policies such as free schoolbooks at primary level, expanding hot school meals, abolishing hospital charges for children and cuts to the cost of childcare.

The Cabinet is also to consider legislation on Wednesday to advance plans to appoint 24 additional judges.

The move comes after the publication of the Report of the Judicial Planning Working Group (JPWG) in February which recommended a dramatic increase in the number of judges.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times