The Irish Times view on Ireland’s response to the Ukraine crisis: turning support into action

Hard questions will have to be asked about neutrality: what does it mean, how does it apply and what are its parameters in a changed world?

Irish public and political support for the Ukrainian people is rightly unequivocal. In the face of such brutality and indifference to civilian suffering, support for anti-Nato posturing by tiny numbers in the so-called peace movement does its noble cause no favours. How ironic that western "militarism" is decried most stridently precisely when it has abjured the possibility of direct military intervention.

The Government, like most of its EU counterparts, has opened the door to refugees from Ukraine. In the welcome words of Minister for Justice Helen McEentee, "anybody who is a Ukrainian citizen who wishes to come to Ireland, whether that's seeking international protection or to join family members, they're welcome to do so." Humanitarian aid is already flowing to Ukraine's borders.

The Government has also embraced the gamut of EU sanctions, including moves to limit access to Russian assets and the large deposits in Ireland's financial system, as well as legal reform to clarify murky rules of beneficial ownership. It supported denial of access to the Swift financial payments system and is expected to back measures against gas imports. Diplomatically Ireland has striven to hold Russia to account at the UN Security Council – mindful, no doubt, that the very veto wielded there by Russia to block criticism is the same veto it would use to prevent Ireland, should it wish, from even sending a symbolic contingent of troops to stand by Baltic EU states should Putin show signs of not being sated.

Many EU member states, Ireland included, have endorsed Ukraine’s appeal for the formal process of its accession to the union now to be opened. It would be a political gesture of solidarity that would start the lengthy, difficult negotiations for actual membership, but a signal of support for Ukraine’s future, politically and economically, in the West.


It would be a declaration of intent, too, that the EU is willing collectively, once Russia has departed, to embrace a long-term commitment to the defence of its prospective member. Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty obliges EU countries to aid a member state that becomes "the victim of armed aggression on its territory" by "all the means in their power". While neutrals are absolved by the treaty of the need to participate in such "aid", Ireland would inevitably become a party to supporting such an obligation on others.

And what price neutrality? Irish diplomats will have shivered at Russia's threat to Sweden and Finland of "consequences" should they abandon neutrality by signing up to Nato. Switzerland has also stepped out of the neutral camp by endorsing EU sanctions. Hard questions will have to be asked about neutrality: what does it mean, how does it apply and what are its parameters in a changed world?