Security, defence and neutrality

Sir, – The MacGill Summer School began with a row over gender balance and compounded this by an unbalanced team of speakers on Ireland's defence and neutrality ("Irish MEP says calm debate needed on security and defence", July 24th).

The vast majority of Irish people support Irish neutrality, so it is difficult to justify such a one-sided debate including Mairead McGuinness, Ben Tonra, and Joe Mulholland, while advocates of neutrality were excluded.

Ms McGuinness said that “Irish spending on defence was the lowest in the EU”. Irish defence spending should be the lowest in the EU, given that our geography as an offshore island and our neutrality are our best defences. She went on to say that “Ireland must engage in a national debate . . . which does not descend into accusations of sending ‘our sons and daughters to war’ ”.

Advocates of abandoning neutrality want to avoid mentioning such unmentionables, on the centenary of the ending of the first World War when almost 50,000 of Ireland’s sons were needlessly killed. The defence of the Irish people should include priorities such as health services and homelessness.

Ben Tonra raised the spectre of global threats to Ireland “such as terrorism, a resurgent Russia and the rise of authoritarian regimes”. Terrorism threats are best dealt with by good policing and restoring genuine neutrality. A “resurgent Russia” is mainly an invention to justify the militarisation of Europe, and authoritarian regimes are a serious issue within the European Union and Nato, rather than being a threat to Ireland.

The statement by French ambassador to Ireland Stéphane Crouzat that “his country does not see Ireland as neutral” represents unacceptable interference in important Irish internal affairs. – Yours, etc,