- 13 January 2004
Deaglán de Bréadún’s article in the Irish Times January 12 says that Neutral Ireland will have key role in implementing EU security strategy. In some respects he is right, but on one key matter his article is misleading. Ireland is no longer neutral by any credible definition of neutrality. This was a clear and definitive finding by Mr Justice N Kearns in the High Court on 28th April 2003 in the Horgan v. An Taoiseach, et al.
For the record, neutrality is a legal status and obligation in international law that applies only in time of war. In peacetime, a state that wishes to be considered neutral in future wars must establish credibility in order to have its neutrality respected by belligerents. Ireland established its credibility as a neutral state during World War II.
It was arguably far more neutral than either Sweden, Portugal or Spain, and minor infringements such as its treatment of captured British personnel, compare very favourable with much more serious infringements by Sweden and others. In the intervening period Ireland has maintained its credibility as a neutral, by insisting on curtailing military transit through Ireland even in times of peace. Ireland remained strictly neutral during the Korean, Vietnam and Afghanistan/USSR wars. This is borne out by documents discovered by me before the High Court.
The critical change in our neutrality status came during the Kosovo war when Ireland allowed US armaments, including Cruise type missiles to pass through or over its territory while the US was engaged in an attack on Serbia, without UN Security Council approval. Further serious violations of Irish neutrality occurred during the US-led war against Afghanistan, even if the UN status of this war was less clear-cut. In the ongoing war against Iraq, the Irish government allowed the passage through Ireland of over 100,000 heavily armed US troops in the preparation for and the conduct of the US-led war against Iraq. The independent MEDACT report has confirmed that up to 30,000 people were killed in this war. No definition of neutrality allows countries such as Ireland to facilitate military operations to that extent. Ireland is therefore not a neutral country under international law at present and its credibility as a neutral country in the event of future wars can only be restored by including a clear neutrality clause in the Irish Constitution.
Deaglán de Bréadún’s assertion that fears for Irish neutrality have been ‘... allayed, to some extent, by the new constitutional provision that there will be no Irish participation in a common European defence without a further referendum’ is also misleading. This refers to the arguably bogus clause inserted in the Irish Constitution (Article 29.4.9) in the second Nice referendum to mislead Irish voters that they were enshrining neutrality into the Constitution. Our participation in Iraq war in the meantime proves the extent to which the Irish people were misled.
Now we are being told that Ireland has a role to play in EU common security strategy. Notice the way the weasel words "security strategy" have conveniently replaced "common defence" to get around the new Article 29.4.9. The Irish people should be alerted also that Mr Justice Kearns ruled that Article 29.1, 2 and 3., of the Constitution was purely "aspirational" anyway, in his ruling in Aril 28 last, thereby effectively re-writing our constitution.
The arguments for Ireland abandoning its neutrality in favour of joining a common EU defence (sorry, security strategy) are as bogus as Article 29.4.9 of the Constitution.
UN collective security and support for the institutions of international law are now being replaced by the weasel word "multilateralism" in EU-speak and Irish Foreign Affairs lingo. Let me remind readers that multilateralism means three or more countries deciding to attack another country, and killing thousands of people, innocent or otherwise.
Tony Blair has used the term with this meaning repeatedly to justify British involvement in Iraq. All such talk of unilateralism and multilateral action has the effect, intended or otherwise, of undermining the UN and international law, and avoiding the necessary reform, or transformation of the UN.
Why waste time reforming the UN when we can trust the US instead? Indonesia, East Timor, Chile, Central America, Vietnam and Cambodia could tell us why not to trust the US. The European Union, as it drifts erratically towards becoming a super-state now wishes to challenge the US superpower militarily as well as economically.
This is the crazy logic of school-yard bullies and those that will suffer will be innocent victims of resource-wars like that in Iraq, fought on the bogus lies about weapons of mass destruction, against US erstwhile ally turned poacher, Saddam Hussein.
Other collateral victims will be poorer class Western conscripts fighting for the Clinton’s and Bushes who conveniently manage to avoid such war.
Ireland lost some 50,000 your men in the mud and blood fields such as the Somme, in that most useless of wars, World War I. Ireland has been playing its part with UN peacekeeping in important missions such as Lebanon, East Timor and Liberia, and brave Irish soldiers have justifiable fallen in the cause of global peace and justice.
Let those who want to fight energy-resource-wars fight them themselves. Ireland should harvest the wind and its renewable energy resources and stop participating it the exploitation of the poorer peoples of the world. The old truism inter arma, silent leges, "in times of war, the law is silent", must be proved wrong. It is in times of war that law is needed most, as the people of Srebrenica, Rwanda, Iraq and elsewhere could tell us, if they were still alive.
Raphael Lemkin who lost his family in the Holocaust warned ‘large countries can defend themselves by arms: small countries need the protection of the law’ Caveat emptor. Let the buyer of European security ‘pigs in a poke’ beware. The European Union is great idea but a militarised European super-state is not. Neutrality of small states such as Ireland is one way of keeping Europe from reverting to imperialism and supporting UN reform against US multilateralism.
Edward Horgan, Newtown, Castletroy, Limerick.
Bio: Edward Horgan is a retired army Commandant, and expert on neutrality and international affairs. He is currently a Government of Ireland Scholar, researching towards a PhD. on the topic of United Nations reform, at the University of Limerick.