Sleepwalking into war

More than a century has passed since the end of the First World War. In that interval Ireland has known some bitter conflicts; but, tragic as these have been, they were confined to this country. With the exception of the Belfast Blitz during the Second World War and the North Strand bombing, we have been largely spared the horror of global warfare. As a result, there exists an aura of complacency in relation to neutrality.

Consequently, we are blinded to the possibility that global conflicts might spill over into this country. This has created a false sense of security, giving rise to a dangerous misconception that little old Ireland will always be spared the fall-out from events elsewhere.

Lest anyone believe that war in Ukraine cannot spread beyond the Donbass, they would do well to reconsider. Last month the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, said he feared that “the world is not only sleepwalking into a wider war but doing so with eyes wide open.”

If that isn’t enough to raise alarm, what about the recent announcement from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists? That respected group set the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward to 90 seconds before midnight. This is the closest to a warning of global catastrophe it has ever been. And there is reason aplenty to justify these fears.

The principal cause for concern lies in the determination of western imperialism, led by the United States, to continue and prolong the conflict in eastern Europe. Their rationale for doing so is savage and brutal.

US-led imperialism is concerned that its global dominance is at risk as a result of China’s rapid economic growth.¹ China’s spectacular development has caused the global balance of power to shift. South America, South Africa and the Indian subcontinent are no longer locked in to Washington’s sphere of influence as they were in the past.

As China relies on its relationship with neighbouring Russia for raw materials and energy, the United States views a prolonged conflict as beneficial to its overall plan. By damaging Russia, the intention is to weaken and possibly isolate China.

In order to wage this proxy war against Russia, the US-driven coalition has provided Zelenskyi’s forces with vast quantities of money and munitions. According to USA Today, the United States alone has sent more than $100 billion in weaponry and finance to Kiev in less than a year—and more is on the way.² This enormous intervention is in addition to significant finance and vast quantities of munitions from other members of NATO. Of particular note is the recent supply of sophisticated German-made panzers, for use on the Eastern Front, no less.

No surprise, therefore, that this war is also being encouraged by large capitalist corporations. Western oil companies and energy suppliers have made extraordinary profits as a result of war-related sanctions on Russia.

Arms manufacturers are naturally drooling at the prospect of a prolonged conflict. A Financial Times headline of 23 February stated: “Defence industry shares soar on Western backing for Ukraine.” Illustrating the point, Saab Bofors Dynamics, an arms-manufacturing subsidiary of the Swedish car manufacturer, reported last month that it expected organic sales growth of 15 per cent in 2023, and that operating income would rise faster than revenue.

Nor has the United States confined its meddling to arming and funding one protagonist in the hostilities. It has also engaged directly by way of sabotage. The highly respected American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has claimed that the US Navy was responsible for bombing the Nord Stream pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany. Although the Pentagon denied Hersh’s report, it must be said that it also initially denied the accuracy of his reporting of the My Lai massacre and the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

It hardly needs pointing out that when all this is taken into account there is the ever-present risk of a worldwide conflagration. With so much at stake, and with two nuclear powers confronting each other under such fraught circumstances, there is a real danger that a misunderstanding, an accident or a misinterpreted signal could trigger the Doomsday situation.

Yet in spite of all this, and as the clouds of war gather, the Dublin government is determined to dispense with what is left of Irish neutrality. For long there has been the decidedly dangerous policy of allowing the US military to use Shannon Airport. More recently the Government approved the participation of up to thirty members of the Defence Forces in the newly established EU Military Assistance Mission in Support of Ukraine. Moreover, according to the Irish Examiner, these trainers will be supplemented by a small number of staff positions based in the Military Planning and Conduct Capability staff in Brussels, and in the multinational Special Training Command at Strausberg in Germany.

The coalition government may spin this decision and its implications until the proverbial cows come home. However, only the wilfully blind can deny that such an action is a gross distortion of any conventional understanding of neutrality.

Let’s be absolutely clear about what ending our neutrality means in practice. In short, it entails aligning this country with a military alliance led by the United States and NATO, in other words participating, to some degree or other, in any and every conflict involving the western powers. Bear in mind that with the Doomsday clock closer than ever to midnight we are not talking about sending troops to spill blood in some far-distant land: in reality this decision presents us now with the real danger of a nuclear strike on Ireland.

If this assessment is valid (and let’s hear from those who can deny its accuracy) two actions are imperative. In the first instance it is essential that we challenge and end once and for all any lingering complacency about the threat arising from ending neutrality and aligning with NATO, or an EU-led military alliance. Consequently, it is of the greatest importance that we campaign vigorously and vociferously to restore and thereafter reinforce Irish neutrality.

One such event promoting peace and neutrality will take place in Dungannon on 11 March 2023. The Charlie Donnelly Winter School, organised under the auspices of the Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland, will deal directly with these matters.⁴ In the words of the organiser, Gearóid Ó Machail, “the world is currently in an extremely precarious and dangerous place, with global tensions growing . . . Our Winter School in Dungannon will examine these themes and explore what options are open in the struggle to preserve our neutrality and promote peace.” Among a number of expert contributors will be the renowned Bernadette McAliskey, and Roger Cole of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance.

Notwithstanding the excellent speakers addressing such a crucial issue, this event is only one step along the road. Similar events must be organised around the country. A stop has to be put to the coalition’s headlong rush into a foreign military alliance, with all the attendant danger.

Failure to do so risks a holocaust the likes of which this country has not experienced since the Great Famine. So get out and get organising. Our very existence may depend upon it.

  1. Michael Gordon and Brett Forrest, “US defense strategy casts China as greatest danger to American security,” Wall Street Journal, 27 October 2022 (
  2. Tom Vanden Brook and Rachel Looker, “US has spent billions on Ukraine war aid: But is that money landing in corrupt pockets?” USA Today, 19 February 2023 (
  3. “Saab’s operating profit rises, sees 15% sales growth in 2023,” Reuters, 10 February 2023.