Ireland gripped by debate over country’s cherished and long-held military neutrality

At the recent live televised programme for the Ukrainian president’s address to a joint sitting of the Oireachtas the political commentator made an extraordinary remark. When the address by  President Volodymyr Zelensky had finished, the commentator surmised that because of obvious reasons there would be any reference from the Irish government speakers to Ireland’s past history with their closest neighbour. Shock horror. President Zelensky commenced his pragmatic speech by saying Ireland is a neutral country. They have not remained neutral to the disaster and to the mishaps that Russia has brought to Ukraine and thanked them for the humanitarian and financial support extended to Ukraine. All the government speakers were resolute in their solidarity and support for Ukraine. Taoiseach Micheál Martin told President Zelensky that while Ireland is a militarily neutral country, it is “not politically or morally neutral” in the face of war crimes.

However, An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in his speech surprisingly went further and said: “In the long history of our own country, we have never invaded another but we do know what it’s like to have been invaded and to have the very existence of our national identity questioned too.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called for Russia to be prosecuted for human rights violations and for the withdrawal of the Russian ambassador to Ireland. In a later speech Mattie McGrath, TD for Tipperary, representing independent TDs in the Dáil, made an off-the-cuff mention of Liam Lynch and Sean Treacy, both from Tipperary and both IRA men during the Irish War of Independence.

For the first time in decades, Ireland is gripped by a debate over the country’s long-held – and much-cherished – military neutrality, as its government struggles to tread a line between helping Ukraine and preserving its neutral status. However, some in the political and media establishment, particularly in the Republic, have cynically seized on the current crisis to argue for an end to Irish neutrality. Some media commentators have worked themselves up into a militaristic frenzy. They want the Irish government to sign up to a hypothetical European Army (WEU) and Nato. Others who are given air time on TV and radio are advocating for the Irish army to hand over some of their military equipment to Ukraine - at a time when it participates in UN duties undermanned and undersupplied. We need to define for ourselves what ‘our traditional neutrality’ means. But we need a wider debate on the future. After all, the Irish people by referendum will decide its existence, with consequences for either choice.

Currently Ireland, a small remote country on the most western side of Europe, best serves Ukraine in continuing with humanitarian and financial aid.

Neutrality for Ukraine may have prevented this conflict if we were to believe any honesty from the Russians in their discussions with Ukraine? It may also have been something Russia could have accepted, if keeping Nato out of Ukraine, and away from Russia’s borders.


Dublin 6

Following NIO play book on truth and justice

Many victims and survivors will be bitterly disappointed to see Padraig Yeates, Secretary, Truth Recovery Process, backing the British government’s legacy amnesty proposals (April 11).

Not that the Northern Ireland Office has told victims and survivors what they are planning.

To find that out they have to buy the Daily Telegraph which receives regular briefings from special advisers on the secretary of state’s thinking.

The driving force behind the government’s alleged interest in resolving complex legacy issues was clear from March 2020 when the secretary of state announced the unilateral scrapping of the Stormont House Agreement.

It is to ensure that military veterans will never go through the criminal justice system even if they have broken the law.

If the government would have had its way Widgery would have been the ‘truth’ about Bloody Sunday.

But that’s not all.

What an amnesty will do will be to give perpetrators power over victims and survivors.

They will decide whether or not they want to tell the ‘truth’ and that ‘truth’ will more than likely be the corporate paramilitary version.

Mr Yeates says that there are no ‘practical proposals’ to get at truth and justice.

Once again he is following the NIO playbook.

Both are wrong.

Operation Kenova has shown that the only way to discover what happened in legacy cases is by a thorough, Article 2 compliant investigation through the criminal justice system.

The SoS is fond of saying that Kenova has produced no convictions.

That’s hardly surprising since more than 30 case files have been languishing with the Public Prosecutions Service for more than two years.

What is needed is a properly resourced, dedicated legacy unit within the PPS.

Ask the victims and survivors if they believe that telling the people who murdered their loved ones that what they did no longer matters will bring ‘truth and reconciliation”.


Wave Trauma Centre

Belfast BT15

Continuing on path of war is in no-one’s interest

When the USSR disbanded in 1991, the US promised Mikhail Gorbachev that Nato would not expand an inch further than the Oder River. In 2014, it encouraged the various Ukrainian presidents to reject Russian interests and, perhaps, join Nato and the EU offering loans with strings attached. After weeks of war through the incursion of Russia into Ukraine caused by its red line having been crossed, President Zelensky has realised that he had nothing in writing regarding Nato’s protection, or EU support, although both of these organisations had only one answer, which was to supply unlimited weaponry, but no way out of this impasse. He now realises that it’s better dealing with Russia and Vladimir Putin directly because it’s not in either country’s interests to continue along this path of war, when a peaceful solution can be attained.

Up to this minute, what seems to be agreed by both parties is for Ukraine to remain neutral from western intrigues, no resumption of a nuclear arms program, and serious discussions over the fate of the Donbass area, all of which seems to be close to agreement.


Ballycastle, Co Antrim