Debate on neutrality is long overdue

Irish neutrality, as it always has, means different things to different people.

Debate on neutrality is long overdue

Irish neutrality, as it always has, means different things to different people.

To some, it is an expression of their commitment to pacificism, a kind of national conscientious objector status.

To others who recognise that if we enjoy the benefits and protections of a collective Europe, no matter how it is constructed, neutrality is a dishonesty because we are obliged to protect the collective that supports us.

Others still see it as an aloof, high-moral ground position that, apparently, allows us to be international peace-brokers though it is hard to remember when the services of Irish diplomats were last used in that noble cause.

How these positions fit with the regular use of Shannon Airport by American troops is a moot point, one best filed under “pragmatic and unavoidable commercial decisions” maybe.

This exception suggests that Irish neutrality is as flexible today as it was all through World War II when we were neutral in favour of the Allies.

However, that flexibility does not extend to having a meaningful debate.

Yesterday, four Fine Gael MEPs suggested that we need a proper debate on security and defence policy. The only thing wrong with that suggestion is that it’s about 25 years behind schedule.

In the world of Brexit, Putin, Trump, cyberwars — is there a need to go on? Ignoring the contemporary consequences of neutrality is plain stupid.

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