Neutrality, ‘sacred cows’ and Brexit


Sir, – Brigid Laffan, in her otherwise very reasonable article on Brexit, advocates ditching the “sacred cow” of Irish neutrality (Opinion & Analysis, May 16th).

Irish neutrality is not predicated solely on geographical position but has also been firmly based on principle formed through opposition to imperialism. Being “good Europeans” does not mean rolling over and doing what some EU centralists want in developing EU/Nato military capacity but rather standing up for peace and justice. Furthermore, surveys have consistently shown Irish neutrality is popular with the public.

Prof Laffan talks about “the return of hard geopolitics in a world of Trump and Putin”; in relation to this there is even more reason for a voice of sanity to be heard opposing military and “security” solutions. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Brigid Laffan would have us believe that the State must reconsider corporate tax breaks and neutrality “for the sake of our EU future”. The only “sacred cow” that needs to be sacrificed is our membership of the EU itself. The EU benefits a small elite, and the ordinary Irish people will continue to pick up the bill for generations to come. The smartest thing we could do right now is leave the EU along with Britain. Give us an “Irexit” referendum, and we’ll show you what we really think. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – Prof Brigid Laffan wants to shoot Ireland’s sacred cow that she calls “military neutrality”. First let’s put to bed the myth propagated by recent Irish governments that there is a lesser form of neutrality called “military neutrality” that permits the Irish government to participate in and support wars of aggression against other sovereign states. International law recognises only one form of neutrality, as defined in the Hague Convention on Neutrality, and that neutrality applies only to military affairs and military actions. Any country can be friendly and politically allied with any other country, and still be officially a neutral state, provided its military policies and actions comply with customary international laws on neutrality. The most basis aspect of neutrality is that it only comes into effect in time of war, and the neutral state must not participate in any such war, except in genuine self-defence, and must not assist the military forces of any belligerent in any war.

The “safety of Ireland’s geographical location” is still an important factor that enables Irish neutrality and the “world of Putin and Trump” increases rather than decreases the justification for neutrality. Ireland is already a potential target for terrorist attacks because of our support at Shannon Airport for US wars of aggression. If we accept the advice of Prof Laffan and others and join Nato or an EU military alliance, then we will additionally become a nuclear target in any war between the likes of Mr Trump and Mr Putin.

Now is the time to value and protect our geographical island location and our valuable neutrality. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Brigid Laffan asserts that “the State’s neutrality deserves sustained scrutiny” (May 16th), which is clearly a roundabout way of saying that the policy should be abandoned. If we’re going to have this debate, let’s be open and honest about it. Prof Laffan proposes that “the Republic should take full part in the further development of the EU’s security capacity”. I assume she means that the State should spend more on “defence” to the detriment of essential services, help build a European army, and prepare for war with Russia. She also rubbishes the requirement of a UN resolution before the state will deploy troops. By this she surely means that the State should do just as George W Bush and Tony Blair did when they launched their illegal wars.

Prof Laffan bases her argument on “the return of hard geopolitics in a world of Putin and Trump”. Though we should all be wary of raving nationalists armed with nuclear weapons, I suggest that Prof Laffan is scaremongering, and, worse, siding with those intent on increasing tensions and willing to send other people’s children to war. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.