Ireland should change position on military neutrality, says academic

Putin should have no veto over when and where Irish troops are deployed on peacekeeping missions, conference hears

Ireland should change its position on military neutrality and replace the current Triple Lock policy with a Double Lock policy involving just Irish institutions when deciding where and when Irish troops are deployed in peacekeeping duties, a leading Irish academic has said.

Prof Brigid Laffan told the Daniel O'Connell Summer School in Cahersiveen the current Triple Lock policy, which involves Ireland requiring UN General Assembly approval before deploying troops, meant someone such as Russian president Vladimir Putin could decide if Irish troops are to be deployed.

"Under the current Triple Lock policy, in order for an Irish Government to assign Irish troops abroad, it requires a resolution of the UN Security Council or the UN General Assembly, the agreement of Dáil Éireann and the agreement of the Irish Government," said Prof Laffan.

"We in Ireland have a deep love for the UN and it's a very important institution in the world but it is deeply flawed in its ability to maintain peace and security in the world. Why should we, as a country, give Putin's Russia a veto over the deployment of Irish troops?

“Why do not we trust our own Government and our parliament to decide where and when Irish security forces are deployed? Why should we rely on the UN Security Council to judge where it is just and right and positive to deploy Irish forces . . .

Irish troops

“I do think the parliament and not just the Government, should always sanction the deployment of Irish troops but by including a reference to the UN Security Council, Ireland is effectively giving Putin’s Russia and China’s Xi Jinping a say in the deployment of our troops.”

Speaking on the theme of Ireland and Europe, Prof Laffan of the European University Institute in Florence told the summer school audience of more than 200 people that the European Union stands "as a zone of peace and relative stability" in contrast to many regions bordering it.

The return of geo-politics was posing challenges for the EU on its eastern and southern borders where political turbulence has led to internal and external threats to the union, which owes its origins to a 19th-century Christian democracy anticipated in many ways by O’Connell, she said.

Prof Laffan referenced the current crisis in the Ukraine as evidence of the EU's failure to respond speedily to emerging crises and she suggested that it indicated weakness in Europe's energy policy as well as a failure to state where "Europe's red lines lie".

"Putin's Russia has destabilised the Ukraine so what are Europe's red lines? Well, we at least know what Europe and the US won't do - no one will protect the Ukraine – the Ukrainians are entirely on their own in the current situation.

“Yes, there will be sanctions but the Ukraine is going to have to figure it out on its own. Will Europe allow its small member states in the Baltics to be bullied? Will Europe continue not to have an energy policy and continue to rely in some cases up to 90pc on Russia for its supplies? “

Prof Laffan also argued the distinction between internal and external security no longer applies with one of the main challenges facing the EU being the growth of radical Islam with thousands of radicalised European Muslims flocking to fight in Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia.

“At the moment amongst those fighting in these countries are several thousand jihadists from all over of Europe and among these quite probably are Irish passports holders – what will happen when they come back to Europe because they will pose a threat to the security of all European states ?.”

Asked about multiculturalism in Europe, Prof Laffan said multiculturalism in many European countries amounted to a failure to confront certain realities regarding difference and to address the issue of integrating new immigrants, most notably in the case of members of the Muslim faith.

“The problem of integration is greatest with Islam – there is no doubt about that – it is greatest because there hasn’t developed yet a European Islam devoid of radicalism and radical Islam is medieval – it can be very modern in its manifestation but it is medieval.

“What we see happening with Isis, the Islamic State, this is deeply medieval – we should not, in our societies, if we have Europeans going and behaving like this in other countries, they should be arrested when they come back and in my view, go through due process.”