Imperialism’s attacks on Irish neutrality 

In January, Policy Exchange, a right-wing British think tank produced a report entitled, “Closing the Back Door: Rediscovering Northern Ireland’s Role in British National Security.” It has a foreword by two former British Defence Secretaries and is endorsed by a former First Sea Lord and Security Minister. It can therefore be safely assumed that it reflects the views of the British military and security establishment. The central point of the report is that in the context of increasing challenges to the US “Rules-Based Order”, the island of Ireland constitutes the weak spot of British national security.1   

Ever since Tudor times Ireland has been seen as having “crucial strategic importance to Britain.”2 An expansionist English/ British state felt the need to hold Ireland to enable it to control North Atlantic trade routes and to prevent any of its European rivals using Ireland as a base from which to invade. While acknowledging that the Irish Defence Forces assessment that a military attack on the 26 counties is highly unlikely is correct,3 the report still claims that Ireland is a weak link in “Western”, i.e. imperialist, defence because three-quarters of northern hemisphere undersea cables runs through Irish territorial waters.4 The report believes that the 26 counties is an unreliable partner and argues for an increased military, naval and air-force presence in the 6 counties and a rejection of any form of Irish unity. 

I was struck by the familiarity of the criticisms of Irish neutrality, defence spending and the so-called free ride on NATO. They are reminiscent of government pronouncements surrounding 2023’s NATO roadshow sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs. It could have been produced by The Irish Times, The Business Post or the current affairs department of RTÉ. One could imagine the “Independent” TD Cathal Berry quoting page after page as he urges the government to take its place among the oppressors of the world. 

The familiarity is not a coincidence. They all sing off the same hymn-sheet. Ideologically Irish neutrality has long since been abandoned. The Irish ruling class supports US led imperialism and the world it has created. The Defence Forces Review reflects the thinking of the Department of Defence and the Officer Corps of the Irish military and they fully espouse Atlanticism. The Department of Foreign Affairs is little more than a sub-office of the EU Commission’s Foreign and Security bureaucracy.  The media reflects this and RTÉ constantly invites spokespersons with links to NATO think-tanks to interpret any conflict it deems worthy of warranting airtime. All political discourse in the state is premised on acceptance of and support for US-led imperialism with which we are supposed to identify. 

When you hear news pundits, “independent” TDs or government spokespersons calling for a “grown-up” discussion on neutrality and lamenting the “failure of the state to play its part in the defence of democracy”, ask yourself in whose interest are they speaking? Is it in the interests of the Irish people that we invest billions of euro buying weapons and armaments from European, British and US arms companies? In whose interest is it that we take part in America’s wars in defence of its hegemony? Who will pay for this waste of money? We need spending on housing, healthcare, education and sustainable development, not on weapons of war. 

All those who parrot imperialism’s attacks on Irish neutrality are not acting in the interest of the Irish people. They should be called out for what they are, agents of imperialist domination of Ireland.