Discussions on government formation are taking place in the wake of a demand by the electorate for a serious reshaping of priorities and policies. Issues of housing, education, climate change and of course health are to the fore.
One other topic, so far absent from the debates, must finally and urgently be aired if democracy and sustainability are really to be achieved: the massive realignment of our defence and military policies over recent decades.
Successive Irish governments have covertly enabled the EU’s NATO-linked militarisation, shamefully and implausibly claiming that ‘nothing is happening here’ while trotting out the incoherent notion of ‘military neutrality’ to conceal the reality.
We have had a Green and a White Paper on Defence, which never once mention more than 3.5 million troop movements, along with torture-related flights, through Shannon since 2003, all within a catastrophic, open-ended ‘War on Terror’.
This is totally at odds with the fundamental principles of Article 29 of Bunreacht na Éireann, which so vitally informed the Peace Process on this island. Yet those who try to retrieve that heritage are demonised as trouble-makers and worse.
War – ‘organised murder’ in the words of Harry Patch, last survivor of World War I – is not an answer; it is the problem, perpetuating a merciless cycle of aggression and retaliation. It is also wasteful –‘a theft’ from true human priorities in the words of US President Eisenhower – and environmentally destructive.
Yet in 2015 our then Chief of Staff foresaw our defence forces as ‘an investment centre’. Significant recent moves towards ‘defence-related research and investment’ were put on hold only by the calling of the General Election.
Smaller parties have now been invited to discuss government formation with the two large parties that have for decades undermined our defence and foreign policy values and thwarted the right and duty of the Irish people, under Article 6 of the Constitution, fundamentally to shape our society.
Commitments to the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) are incompatible with an adequate response to our needs in health, housing, education, climate change and other policy areas. We call on any party that enters into negotiations with FF/FG to demand a change in the policy of selling-out Irish neutrality, to bring neutrality into line with Article 29 of Bunreacht na Éireann and with the clearly expressed wishes of the majority of citizens (as confirmed in a Red C poll at the time of the 2019 European Parliament elections). If the parties do not squarely confront this issue, they will from the start have abandoned any serious prospect of achieving a decent, democratic, peaceful and sustainable society.
We should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic: only through international cooperation and not confrontation can global issues be solved. Indeed, by nations peacefully working together we can also prevent the next emergency that is hurtling towards us, climate change. Militarism and the ongoing arms race are a major contributory factor in the cause of climate change. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report that $1,917 billion was squandered on weaponry and other military expenditure in 2019. The Irish Government should become pro-active in pursuing an international peace agenda.
With this in mind, we, the undersigned, demand that the following become part of Government policy.
- End the use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports and territorial waters by foreign powers preparing for or engaging in war or other armed conflict, and in particular end the US military use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace for such purposes;
- Commit to ending Ireland’s participation in military exercises and deployments not mandated and operated by the UN, including NATO, EU and other multilateral exercises and deployments;
- Revoke Ireland’s ratification of PESCO, which we do not believe commands majority support in the new Dail, and cease all involvement in European Defence Agency programmes;
- Protect and copper-fasten Irish neutrality, by holding a referendum to amend the Constitution to give effect to this, and/or the codification of neutrality in domestic legislation to give effect to the Hague Conventions on the conduct of warfare, including the obligations of neutral states.
Joe Murray, Action from Ireland (AFRI)
Niall Farrell, Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW)
Michael Youlton, Irish Anti War Movement (IAWM)
David Edgar, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Roger Cole, Chair, Peace & Neutrality Alliance (PANA)
Frank Keoghan, People’s Movement
John Lannon, Shannonwatch
Edward Horgan, Veterans For Peace Ireland
Barry Sweeney, World Beyond War Ireland
 10th October 2015
7th May 2020