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A policy of active neutrality

Military neutrality does not have to mean political neutrality

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott
The Irish Times - Letters to the Editor.

Sir, – Brian Kelleher (Letters, June 18th) is quite right when he points out that Ireland’s neutrality has always been ill-defined and, indeed, over the decades various Governments have interpreted it to suit their own purposes. The three political parties in Government at the moment, for example, regularly affirm their support for this State’s military neutrality while simultaneously sending military supplies to Ukraine, allowing the US army to trundle through Shannon Airport and strengthening the our Army’s relationship with Nato. Ireland would certainly benefit from a proper national conversation on the matter.

Another issue raised by Mr Kelleher, which he links to the concept of active neutrality, is the depleted condition of the Army and he argues for substantially increased resources to build up its military capabilities. My idea of active neutrality would have a much more political focus. As a militarily neutral country, Ireland is in a strong position to take a stand against the recent rise in militarism across Europe, and beyond, and the reversion at times to rhetoric last heard during the Cold War, and it should do so. Likewise, the Irish State should act consistently in defence of human rights and international humanitarian law, and – leaning on our own historical experience – speak out against imperialist wars and colonialism. Military neutrality does not have to mean political neutrality.

Spending billions on the Army and Naval Service requires justification beyond how well-received it would be by our European neighbours.

The current defence budget is above €1.2 billion and is due to increase, but this will still be a relatively small percentage of GDP. To bring military expenditure up to the GDP level of other EU countries, most of whom are in Nato, there would have to be a massive increase in spending.


With a severe housing crisis unresolved and a health system in chaos, would there really be an appetite for this among the general public? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.