Sneaking away from neutrality?


A chara, – I have to agree with Breda O’Brien, who argues that Irish participation in Pesco represents a serious erosion to our neutrality and that this is something to be lamented (“Ireland is sneaking away from neutrality”, Opinion & Analysis, April 21st).

Despite assurances from the Government that Pesco (Permanent Structured Cooperation) is not a military alliance, it holds many signs of being one. For instance, it is organising a number of projects aimed at integrating various EU militaries. Ireland is one of the most enthusiastic participants of these projects. It is also intended that Pesco be capable of mounting operations such as providing other countries with military assistance in the future.

Membership of a military alliance necessarily means that a state is not neutral. Not only that, but even close cooperation with an alliance, even without actual membership, can in practice negate formal declarations of neutrality. The example of the first World War is instructive in this regard. In 1914 Germany invaded Belgium, partly due to tactical expediency, but also because Belgium, with its close relationship with the Entente Cordiale, was only neutral in a nominal sense.

The use of Swiss territory by the Germans would have given them many advantages over the French, but the Swiss unlike the Belgians were able to credibly maintain that they were neutral.

There are some in Irish politics who would like to abandon neutrality altogether. This no doubt would be a mistake and run counter to this country’s interests. Joining any military alliance, whether it’s Pesco or Nato, would have the effect of increasing hostility amongst non members and also likely misrepresent our intentions abroad. The risk of us being dragged into a war would increase.

Membership of a military alliance wouldn’t be an iron clad guarantee against aggression from a fellow member either. Just think of the war fought by the Nato members, Greece and Turkey, in 1974 over Cyprus. Today there is still a large degree of tension between the two countries.

Neutrality has been beneficial for Ireland over the decades. A formal abandonment of the policy isn’t the only threat to it though. – Is mise,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien identifies the Newspeak used to mask Ireland’s sneaky abandonment of neutrality and its long engagement with responsible international co-operation. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, “Airstrip One” was believed to describe Britain. In today’s dystopian world we needn’t look far for “Airstrip Two”. – Yours, etc,