The Irish Times view on Irish foreign policy: Continuity over rupture

Commitments to continuity and promise to meet UN aid targets are welcome – but as many questions are begged as resolved

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visiting Irish troops in Mali last year. Photograph: Defence Forces

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visiting Irish troops in Mali last year. Photograph: Defence Forces

 

It’s difficult to see in the programme for government’s foreign policy and defence sections any particularly Green dimensions. Policy continuity is the order of the day, as usual in Irish foreign policy, and the document merely reiterates long-standing policy positions in broad and predictable terms.

Perhaps there is significance in those policy reiterations for the Greens, by providing safeguards against projects which critics insist are in the pipeline but are in fact largely imaginary. “Active military neutrality” is reaffirmed, as is the constitutionally guaranteed triple lock on Defence Forces operations abroad. EU security cooperation is in, but armaments cooperation out; limitations on military flights landing are reaffirmed, but there is no question of banning them. Israeli annexation of the Occupied Territories is vigorously opposed, but no mention of backing the Bill on banning products from the West Bank. The promise to look at defence pay and conditions is hedged by an insistence that the result “must be consistent with national public sector wage policy”.

Final Draft Programme For Government

Looming challenges

EU policy will maintain both the strong commitment to the union and a broad alignment with the mainstream consensus within the union on approaches to the looming challenges, whether climate change, migration, the digital economy or enlargement. But many of those require more specific answers than provided here. There is a motherhood-and-apple-pie quality to the pledges to back a new EU budget agreement without acknowledging the substantial resource commitment necessary, and to the promise to support the deepening of economic and monetary union, without reference to fiscal harmonisation.

The EU’s conference on the future of the European Union is supposed to start this autumn, but we get no sense of what Ireland may champion except for a vague statement of support for “initiatives to improve accountability and transparency across the EU institutions”. The broad commitments to continuity, and the specific promise to meet UN development aid targets, are welcome, but as many questions are begged as resolved.

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