Sneaking away from neutrality?


Sir, – Further to “Ireland is sneaking away from neutrality” (Breda O’Brien, Opinion & Analysis, April 21st), Pesco does not include provisions for mutual defence or support in the event of attack, or oblige state parties to provide them. It is just what it claims to be – an organisation to facilitate greater interoperability between EU forces through joint training, equipment and logistical facilities.

The Defence Forces have long adopted Nato standardisation agreements for procurement, and making sure European armed forces can easily work together in the event of a crisis is simply common sense. Nor is such an eventuality restricted to military conflict – armed forces increasingly play a role in search and rescue, disaster relief, and a host of other hazardous, but non-conflict activities. Irish participation in Pesco will simply allow the Defence Forces to do what they’re already doing, but better.

Cian Ó Dúill (April 24th) claims that Germany’s invasion of Belgium was due to the latter’s lean towards the entente, while the seemingly more strategically valuable Switzerland was left unmolested due to its neutrality. A quick glance at a map shows this to be absolute nonsense – in any case, the real guarantee of Swiss neutrality has been its continued investment in a robust domestic defence capability, not foreign policy scrupulousness.

And while Mr Ó Dúill may find Switzerland’s stance an enviable one, the record of Swiss-German wartime collaboration is not exactly morally unblemished.

Indeed, this entire conversation overlooks that Ireland has never had a true policy of neutrality.

In the second World War, Ireland – rightly – tilted hard towards the Allies. At the start of the cold war, Ireland offered the US a bilateral military alliance as a backdoor into Nato. We have never had any illusions of where our interests have lain in the continuing defence of the postwar democratic order.

We have simply refused to contribute to that defence, a policy of free-riding. If neutrality advocates want to defend that policy, so be it. But please – no more moral posturing in defence of a position that can be summarised in the immortal words of Homer Simpson: “Can’t someone else do it?” – Yours, etc,