The Dublin-based Justice and Peace group Afri welcomes the pertinent comments of President Michael D. Higgins on the drift towards NATO. We share the concerns of so many citizens and groups at the recent distortion of our foreign and defence policies. These concerns have been sharpened by the inappropriate structure and purpose of the forthcoming ‘Consultative Forum on International Security’. This follows the publication of an inadequate and slanted report from the Commission on the Defence Forces, which promotes a highly militaristic approach, at odds with the fundamental commitments of Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin has used this defective document to assert, bizarrely, that the sovereign Irish people are out of touch with their own defence policy. Successive governments have dismissed the values and concerns of a clear majority as outdated and uninformed. The so-called ‘consultative’ process represents a tragic missed opportunity for a democratic interaction which could scrutinise recent developments and set our future course. Only this would respect the people’s right ‘in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy’ (Article 6).
Our Constitution has been ignored and distorted by policies and practices at odds with the commitment of Article 29, as applied so fruitfully in our justly cherished Peace Process. We are fortunate that our President sounds the alarm, fulfilling his overall responsibility towards the Constitution, and specifically exercising his ‘supreme command’ of the Defence Forces (Article 13).
Given the issues now confronting us, and the clear inadequacy of the latest Government machinations, our policies cannot be reconnected with our most fundamental commitments and democratic processes without a formal public inquiry, addressing the developments of recent decades and the legal, political and ethical requirements of future policy.
Failing this – or ideally paralleling it – there must also emerge a citizens’ process similar to the Russell Tribunal, which was so effective in articulating people’s opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Afri thanks and congratulates President Higgins, and welcomes the swelling tide of genuine People’s Forums which has emerged in response to the Government’s sadly inadequate proposals.
Afri will host an online book launch of ‘A Force for Good? Reflections on Neutrality and the Future of Irish Defence, on Tuesday, June 20th at 11am.