On the first anniversary of Russia’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine, the Irish Neutrality League decries an Irish government and media-driven warmongering narrative that has served to undermine Ireland’s neutrality.

1.  Irish Neutrality Has Been Undermined; Increased Defence Spending Fuels Geopolitical Tensions

With blatant disregard for opinion polls indicating majority support for Irish neutrality, the Irish government has deliberately obfuscated the meaning of neutrality by falsely counterposing “political” and “military” neutrality.  

The INL endorses a recently published report by the Transnational Institute, “Smoke Screen: How states are using the war in Ukraine to drive a new arms race”, which observes that “Western governments have pledged unprecedented financial support to militarism, citing the threat posed by the war as justification.” This can be seen in Ireland, where increased spending on Ireland’s Defence Forces is projected to rise to €1.5 billion per annum by 2028.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has calculated global military expenditure at more than $2 trillion per annum. The INL endorses the view of SIPRI that governments are “ratcheting up military budgets and deploying war-frenzy rhetoric” that is fuelling geopolitical tensions.

The INL calls on the government to meaningfully restore and preserve Ireland’s neutrality, and to redirect military expenditure towards housing, health and other essential social services that are breaking down due to inadequate funding.

2. Arms Manufacturers Get Bonanza

No national liberation movement fighting for self-determination has received such an amount of military aid as Ukraine. To put matters in perspective, the Ukrainian army has received the equivalent of the French annual military budget, or twice the annual spending on the Israeli army.

This spending has resulted in a massive bonanza for the arms dealers. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon manufacture the Javelin anti-tank missiles that cost €176,000 each and $242,000 per launcher. Raytheon has received a contract worth $624 million from the US government to replace its stock of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, which has been depleted by their supply to Ukraine. No wonder the corporation’s profits jumped by 30% to reach $13 billion this year. No wonder, too, that share prices in arms manufacturers have soared.

Ukraine has become a bloody battleground for arms dealers and generals who want to play war games with the lives of its people. NATO sees this as a chance to test out the military capabilities of its Russian opponent without deploying NATO’s own soldiers to battle.

We would be better spending all this money on alleviating world hunger.

3. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Have Shown Contempt for the Democratic Process

Under the social contract, the role of public representatives is to understand their voters’ policy preferences and to create legislation and develop policies to reflect those preferences. Consistently, across three decades of polling, four in five people in Ireland wish to retain neutrality.

Yet leading newspapers repeatedly publish articles by commentators who consistently deride neutrality in a bid to persuade the government to abandon it regardless of its enduring public support. For example, an Irish Times article by Professor Ben Tonra describes the constitutionally-mandated referendums in Ireland on European Union treaties that threaten neutrality as “periodic Punch and Judy shows” and “a seasonal pantomime surrounding neutrality and defence”.

Professor Tonra’s assertion that “Article 29.4.9 of the Constitution was also amended to create a cast-iron constitutional barrier to Irish participation in an EU common defence” is incorrect. There is no provision in Bunreacht na hEireann preventing Ireland being a part of the European Union’s collective defence. In fact, Bunreacht na hEireann is overridden by European Union treaty provisions unless a protocol is attached to safeguard neutrality. There is no such neutrality protocol.  

Is it shocking that the European Union, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael representatives, and the Irish media have such contempt for the democratic processes of this state and, indeed, the steadfast preference of voters for positive and active Irish neutrality.  

In light of the above, and despite intimations by the government, a referendum on neutrality in the near future is unlikely. Government policy was summarised to the European Commission after the rejection of the first Lisbon Treaty referendum by the then Minister for European Affairs Mr Dick Roche: “the first thing to learn about referendums – is to avoid them”.  (Brussels, 21 November 2008)

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