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Triple Lock debated in Dail Eireann

Concerns were raised following the announcement by Taoiseach Simon Harris on his arrival at the Brussels summit of EU leaders that the Irish government had plans to abandon the “Triple Lock” and to support further moves towards EU militarisation.

A meeting was held in Dail Eireann on Wednesday 24th April with peace activists and political representatives, chaired by Catherine Connolly TD to debate this issue and how this Irish government continues to dismiss the important role of Irish neutrality in foreign policy. The main speakers were anti-war activist Niamh Ni Bhriain, Eamon Rafter representing the Irish Neutrality League, and John Maguire of Swords to Ploughshares StoP.

TRIPLE LOCK OR NATO BLOC?  A contribution to the Briefing in Leinster House   24th April 2024 John Maguire

Nick Lowe asks: what’s so funny about peace and love and understanding?  If we cringe when uttering these words, we have abandoned the heart of our country’s foreign policy, Article 29.  Sister Michael of ‘Derry Girls’ might well ask: have we lost our actual minds, and our souls as well?

Our leaders celebrate Ireland’s peace process whilst calibrating ‘an acceptable level of violence’ around the world.  They refuse to confront the US’s arms supplies to the Zionist regime and decades-long abuse of Shannon Airport.  They respond to Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine by egging that country on towards the tragic myth of sacred victory. This is the allegedly rational ‘reality’ to which Tánaiste Martin now tells us to wake up…

If our leaders had been open, active militarists it would have been easier to confront them, but no.  Sixty years ago, when Britain applied to join the EEC, TK Whitaker laid down two fateful markers.  Domestic economic policy should be subjected to the “externally applied discipline” of EEC free trade, and “we should not ourselves raise obstacles to our being admitted as members of the EEC.  To say that we would withdraw our application if membership of NATO were insisted upon would be extremely unfortunate.” (Quotations from Gary Murphy, In Search of the Promised Land [Mercier, Cork 2009], pp. 141 and 278-9.)

But how to square this with Article 29 – peaceful conflict-resolution, judicial determination and international law – and the Irish people’s commitment to active neutrality?  Answer, the twin-track strategy: pursue integration at all costs, deny the increasingly obvious NATO-based EEC/EU militarisation, and promote a celestial neutrality allegedly compatible with, indeed requiring, the drift towards our current complicity in hell on earth.

Thus the Irish people, who have reserved to ourselves under Article 6 the final say on “all questions of national policy”, were deliberately misled as to our leaders’ intentions and undertakings by the 1972 White Paper, a strategy followed remorselessly in the SEA- and subsequent referendums.

Tánaiste Martin’s injunction to wake up and smell the cordite rounds out a process of political abuse: gaslighting us that nothing sinister is happening; a double-bind message that of course it is happening, indeed is necessary and even good for us; denigration of those who point to the truth, and whittling down of channels of debate – too often mirrored by the mainstream media.  Then, the ultimate double-bind message: powerful figures who have told us for decades ‘Nothing to see here!” finally turn on us with “Why on earth weren’t you watching?!”

While we confront this abusive history, and continue our critical activism, we might remind ourselves that there is nothing funny about peace and love and understanding, that killing people and destroying their world is actually wrong and doesn’t solve problems, and that our current policies and practices, however they have emerged, are fundamentally mistaken and must be reversed.

Official Ireland for decades held its nose and swallowed whatever EU/NATO were up to, with studious inattention to our own defence forces.  The result now is a toxic synergy of genuine grievances about pay, conditions and career structure with the emergence of a bright, brash cohort of young soldiers gagging to join in NATO’s ethically and geographically grotesque adventures.

Ireland’s ‘own’ Rangers are soon to morph into IRLSOF: Ireland’s Special Operations Force.  ‘Special Operations’: where did we first, and where most recently, encounter this revolting euphemism; when might we come to terms with this island’s own experience of it; what are we to make of our soldiers’ involvement in Afghanistan, West Africa and elsewhere, let alone the recent reports of rogue adventures in Libya?

The furtive twin-track process has recently produced a Commission on the Defence Forces.  Its Report leveraged the increasingly dangerous world situation, to which NATO/EU had significantly contributed, as an argument for deepening, rather than reconsidering, our informal co-optation into NATO.  The Commission is critiqued in Afri’s booklet A Force for Good?  Its deeply flawed recommendations in turn preceded and prejudiced Tánaiste Martin’s ‘Consultative Forum on Security Policy’.

StoP’s publication Freedom to Choose? critiques the composition and conclusions of the Forum.  Not only was the exercise packed with the very experts, military and civilian, who have landed us into hell on earth; they also failed to provide the clear and compelling analysis which, we were promised, would remedy the alleged ignorance and negligence of the sovereign Irish people.

Might the horrors of Gaza, and the cruel reenactment of World War One in Ukraine, even at this late hour confront our leaders with where their reckless behaviour has landed us?   If not, how do we confront them, and reclaim the principles and practices which informed our rightly lauded Irish Peace Process?

People justifiably invoke the guarantee given after Nice I that a Triple Lock, including UN authorisation, would govern any use of our troops abroad.  Breaking the UN lever of the Triple Lock would be a flagrant breach of that guarantee, reiterated as recently as the current Government programme.  We have reason however to look closely at those Nice and Lisbon ‘guarantees’.

The Seville text of 2002 was a mere Declaration about the Nice Treaty.  Declarations describe treaties; only Protocols can alter them: a palpable truth flatly and falsely denied by our leaders.  The Protocol which was then promised in order to get Lisbon II adopted bizarrely once more merely redescribed a treaty: not even a restatement of the Triple Lock, but a pious promise of adherence to “the principles of the United Nations” rather than its authority – as interpreted and ‘enforced’ by guess who?

Our crafty mandarins may well feel they have insulated themselves from legal action focused on the Triple Lock as such; the lawyers will advise us on whether to mount such an action.  In any case it could be merely one part of a broad campaign to retrieve and reaffirm Article 29 as the basis of our foreign and defence policies.  This could well involve a legal and constitutional challenge to the manifest deceptions, and disastrous consequences, of the entire twin-track strategy since 1972 and indeed before.

We are a former colony which joined the United Nations at a fateful juncture in 1955: the Neutral and Non-Aligned Movement first met, the Warsaw Pact was formed, and Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell issued their chilling manifesto, warning of the danger of nuclear catastrophe.

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.

These words should put to bed forever any notion that Neutrality means indifference: it means a commitment to a world where all may live, where differences are a problem to be resolved, rather than a pretext for slaughter.  Two years later Frank Aiken echoed the warning, at the 1957 UN General Assembly, invoking:

a vision of what the Third World War would mean for mankind.  No one who has that vision… is likely to be satisfied with anything less than a full-scale all-out campaign for peace.  That campaign… must bring the end of imperialism in all its shapes and forms, whether direct or indirect, Eastern or Western, diplomatic or military, capitalist or communist.’ (Quotations on p. 33 of A Force for Good?)

If only we had been reminded of all this in more recent times – but we were!  I have no space here to detail the warnings of Erskine Childers III, who was brought to University College Cork in 1995 by the Irish Government of the day, who were preparing a White Paper on foreign policy.  I summarised them in an article last June (  Sadly the Government proceeded, like their successors, to disregard his analysis and proposals meticulously, detail by detail, step by step, year after year.

Erskine Childers III, son of our fourth President, reminded us that there is a world out there, groaning under the weight of economic and military policies totally at odds with the UN Charter.  Across a span of three decades he challenges us to realise that Article 29 is the very hinge of our doorway to the wider world, a world to which we need bring no imperial design or overweening remedies, but in which we have committed ourselves to be decent citizens and to contribute modestly to peace and to human flourishing.

We must not join in the crocodile tears over a ‘failure of the UN’ manufactured by NATO, and happily exploited by the increasingly audacious armed gangs besetting planet and peoples.  Let us not be misled by mirages of ‘sovereign freedom’, but rather reclaim Article 29 and reaffirm the Triple Lock rather than copperfastening our own disenfranchisement and that of all the peoples of the UN.

Check recent publications from Afri Ireland including, Freedom to Choose? Report on the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy…on this link.

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