Thank you for the invitation to make a submission for the White Paper on Enterprise. We look forward to positive engagement with the process.
The White Paper can draw on our resilient history, and the wealth of culture and ingenuity within our shared island’s diverse communities. Our population has only now regained its level before An Gorta Mór. The White Paper’s topic – how communities work with nature and the wider world – can hardly ignore the significance of that Great Hunger for our history, and our response to hunger and displacement today.
Our policies also bear the imprint of the Whitaker/Lemass transition. Dr Whitaker, lamenting the hidebound politics of the decade, wrote to a colleague on New Year’s Eve 1959:
There can be no doubt that an externally applied discipline… will arouse less opposition, appear less discriminatory, and be more effective than a system operated entirely at the discretion of the domestic administration. [i]
Whatever about that trade-off of political autonomy for the EEC’s discipline and benefits, how might Ireland now position itself as an EU member-state whose resources and potential put us in a place of real, enviable choice on a troubled planet?
We have demonstrated skill in engaging with powerful global structures and policies. We need to fulfil our potential as a world centre of creativity in areas such as renewable energy, sustainability and climate-friendly materials and technology. Such projects, engaging the enthusiasm of our climate-concerned young people, can respond to Irish Aid’s challenge: ‘Transforming our World: Help Ireland Make a Difference’.
A Better World is professedly ‘a whole of government policy… anchored in Ireland’s foreign policy values, working towards a world that is more equal, peaceful and sustainable.’ [ii] But these sentiments sit ill with the (non-pay) proposals from the Commission on the Defence Forces (CDF). Many of those clash with our whole-of-government foreign policy, whose values are set out in Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann:
Ireland affirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality. Ireland affirms its adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination. Ireland accepts the generally recognised principles of international law as its rule of conduct in its relations with other States.
These are concrete commitments, a practical promise of who we are and how we will interact with our world. They were previously realised through active neutrality, work for disarmament, and UN-directed peacekeeping.
Recent EU/NATO military developments are unfailingly represented as appropriately updating such policies, reaffirming our commitment to active neutrality and Article 29. Now, overnight, we are informed that the people of Ireland are out of touch with reality. The CDF Report, for example, envisages ‘grounded debate [for] developing people’s awareness and understanding of the role of the Defence Forces’[iii] rather than grounding our policies once more in our Constitution’s commitments.
The Report urges developments far removed from any meaningful notion of appropriate defence or UN-directed peacekeeping, such as ‘Ireland’s Special Operations Force’, developing ‘war fighting capability’ for overseas missions involving ‘higher risks and harsher conditions’ in ‘tougher environments’.[iv] Such proposals must feature in the ‘grounded debate’ which governments for so long have promised and even now hesitate to join.
The immediate issue for the White Paper on Enterprise here is the pressure to expand our already significant military-related production.
Anyone attending the ‘Slándáil Security Summit’ at DCU in February 2020, or the Department of Defence’s RTI Webinar in November 2021, encountered bright, pleasant people, many young and enthusiastic, invoking security, cooperation, innovation – and what our Chief of Staff called ‘the need for us to collaboratively explore towards a safer tomorrow’.[v]
A promised drone-demonstration at the ‘Summit’ was cancelled. Afghanistan, for example, fared less well around then, with a reported 62 civilians killed in two drone strikes on 8th and 9th January 2020.[vi] The point of war is planned destruction, and the point of contemporary ‘defence research and production’ is to prevail in methods of destruction.
Dwight Eisenhower called weapons ‘a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed… This world in arms… is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.’ [vii]
Einstein, without whose insights today’s science and technology would be unthinkable, in his last week of life in 1955 endorsed the Russell/Einstein Manifesto, highlighting the dangers of nuclear escalation:
Most of us are not neutral in feeling, but, as human beings, we have to remember that, if the issues between East and West are to be decided in any manner that can give any possible satisfaction to anybody, whether Communist or anti-Communist, whether Asian or European or American, whether White or Black, then these issues must not be decided by war. We should wish this to be understood, both in the East and in the West.[viii]
These warnings resonate with Article 29, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process, in which decommissioning was fundamental. The recent Downpatrick Declaration, launched by our Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairéad Maguire, reaffirms the enduring relevance of that process, and its challenge to the practices embraced by successive governments. [ix] [x]
Such developments conflict with the professed principles – and so much of the good work – of Ireland’s presence in the world. The dissonance is increasingly ‘coming home’ through the promotion of weapons-related production, in both jurisdictions[xi], under the ‘all-island’ approach to enterprise and research.[xii] No doctrine of appropriate defence or genuine peacekeeping could justify Irish enterprise’s expanding the world’s current $2 trillion-plus annual expenditure on armaments.[xiii]
We need not remind our governments of the toll of worldwide conflict; they acknowledge it themselves:
Conflict and fragility, compounded by climate change, are increasing the vulnerability of millions. Globally, the number of major violent conflicts has tripled since 2010 and more countries are experiencing war than at any time in nearly 30 years. [xiv]
An adequate Irish enterprise policy must integrate this evidence, rather than acknowledge it alongside ‘business as usual’. In engaging with the White Paper exercise we will provide further information; here we indicate some key sources. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)[xv] provides evidence that the economic contribution of arms manufacture is overstated. [xvi]
Military procurement budgets are often uncontrolled [xvii], quite apart from the danger of corruption [xviii]. When the weapons are used, they devastate societies, as the World Food Programme (WFP) tells us:
Conflict is still the biggest driver of hunger, with 60 percent of the world’s hungry living in areas afflicted by war and violence. Events unfolding in Ukraine are further proof of how conflict feeds hunger, forcing people out of their homes and wiping out their sources of income. [xix]‘
Then come the ‘Deadly comrades: war and infectious diseases’ [xx]. For example, ‘Yemen is experiencing the worst epidemic of cholera in modern history’ [xxi] . Our own history must surely alert us to the needs, and the suppressed potential, of populations deprived of agency and voice by today’s power-structures.
This entire submission could be devoted to the environmental aspect alone, in a country whose parliament has unanimously declared a climate emergency. The CDF Report hardly scratches the surface of these issues in its three pages on ‘Green Defence’ [xxii]. It is at least as concerned with the impacts of climate crisis on the military as with the impacts of the military on infrastructure, human and animal health, food security and pollution, all leading to further displacement. [xxiii]
Ireland is superbly situated to set up, in fact to be, a Global Just-Transition Centre not only in green-energy technologies, but also in the transformation from destructive industries and mindsets. We have the legacy and inspiration of Tuam-man Mike Cooley to inspire us [xxiv].
We ask the White Paper team to consider this evidence and, where they disagree, tell us where and why. There is a large, complex, enthusiastic and well-informed community out here, wanting to realise Ireland’s proven creativity within a world in its turn crying out – albeit often unheard – for justice and peace as the basis for human flourishing. Please do not repeat the dreary policymaking cycles of recent decades: engage with us, your stakeholders; nothing else befits a democratic republic.
[i] Murphy, G., In Search of the Promised Land, Mercier Press, Cork, 2009, p. 141
[iv] Pp. 66, 49, 9-10.
[v]European Defence Fund (EDF) 25th Nov 2021 (Webinar)Lt. Gen. Seán Clancy – Chief of Staff Defence Forces “EU Funding for Irish Defence and Security Enterprise and R&D Maximising the Opportunities.” Lt. Gen. Clancy’s text was kindly supplied to us by the Department of Defence.
[vi]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_drone_strikes_in_Afghanistan#2019 accessed 25th July 2022
[xi] https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/fanning_the_flames_report-tni-web_new.pdf See pp. 36-39 for Irish case-study.
[xxii] CDF Report, pp. 49-51.