We read today that independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daley were arrested by airport police in Shannon airport after to breaching a perimeter fence . Their aim was to try to inspect two US military planes to ascertain whether they were carrying weapons, which they believe would breach our neutrality. Clearly they went about this knowing they had no legal basis to gain access but as we know in Ireland protests seem to be the only way to raise awareness of issues like this.
The government will no doubt label it a “stunt” for media coverage during the Dáil break, but it raises issues about Ireland’s neutrality, especially with the current situation in Palestine and Ukraine ongoing.
Ireland’s neutrality only allows it to participate in UN mandated peacekeeping operations and prevents Ireland becoming a member of NATO, which means Ireland only co-operates with NATO through the Partnership for Peace framework which Ireland joined in 1999.
It was previously established that the US had used Shannon for rendition flights and it has long been suspected that it has also been used for stopover and refueling for aircraft carrying arms to hot war zones. As with any agreement the scope of this sometimes gets stretched and reinterpreted. One might wonder if the government believe that what the PPf defines as helping in “logistics” in “peace missions” could be reinterpreted to allow moving weapons to any warzone that NATO deems covered by the UN. We think that is stretching it a bit but to this day their is still no oversight of what goes on.
Government need to stop fudging. Ireland’s constitution states we are neutral full stop, we can’t be “a bit neutral”. Hence government cannot breach that constitution, it is there to restrict them after all.
This brings us rather interestingly up to today’s events. This morning Charlie Flanagan, Ireland’s new Foreign Affairs minister, said on his way to an EU meeting of foreign ministers, that Ireland supports phase 2 sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. Now this is where is gets sticky because sanctions are in fact an act of war in their own right; and this puts Ireland in a difficult constitutional position. It also sees the government of “neutral” Ireland siding with NATO in what the man in the street can deduce from the immediate, somewhat frenzied and unreasonable rantings of US politicians, to be a push to commence another hot war zone, this time with Russia. So what on earth does neutrality mean any more to the Irish government?
There seems to be a logic disconnect in the department of foreign affairs when it comes to supporting their “friends” above taking time to find the truth, and also abide by the constitution and the rule of law. As we have seen in the even more frenzied orgy of media coverage over the recent plane crash in Ukraine, evidence does not seem to be particularly important to politicians when there is a larger goal at stake. The behavior of the media has been utterly shameful and so blatantly devoid of reasonable journalistic rigour over this terrible air disaster. We have endured 4 days of headline accusations that, when you read behind the banners and between the lines, are based on nothing more than speculation and hearsay and a complete lack of hard evidence. Yet all this time Russia is the only country calling for an international investigation into the crash by ICAO, the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organisation, not the actions of a guilty party and yet neutral Ireland springs into action with NATO. Where is the rule of law in all of this, or is promulgating war via media the new norm?
It is also notable that Charlie Flanagan’s reasoning for his support lacks credibility when he cited the “support for democratisation of Ukraine” and a stand against “Russian aggression” as Ireland’s and the EU’s reasoning behind these sanctions. It seems to have evaded Charlie and the media that Ukraine was already a democratic country, it had a democratically elected government and president, it had united people who wanted a Ukraine with both Russian and Ukrainian ethnicity, independent and not solely tied to either Russia or the EU; well it did until the west supported an armed takeover of that democracy by a militarised group that has it’s history rooted in past support for the Nazis, who also happen to support allegiance solely with the EU. Yet our government support this as democratisation, and criticise Crimea where they had a peaceful referendum to decide their future rather than a military coup; and this is somehow Ireland being neutral?
Unlike the terrible plane crash in Ukraine, over which Ireland jumps in with two feet before any real evidence is presented amid the war drum beating of NATO, on another front Charlie Flanagan seems to be much more “neutral”. His statements on the Israeli actions in Palestine, and more notably the recent attack on Gaza, are much more conciliatory; not wishing to take a stand on any particular side. Though the tenure of his statements are generally more favourable towards Israel and fail to recognise the disproportionality of the suffering, or the full history of the 70 year conflict beyond the last two weeks. There is no condemnation, no expulsion of diplomats, no cessation of trade, no sanctions at all even though the UN and Amnesty have both derided Israel’s disregard for civilian casualties, collective punishment of a population, during their bombardment of Gaza as contrary to international law and a war crime; even though the evidence is so real you can watch the destruction live on television.
We appear to have a serious problem of double standards, an failure to understand history, and a severe logic deficit in our department of Foreign Affairs; and all the evidence points to Ireland’s government behaving as just another proxy state for US foreign policy.
Ireland is constitutionally neutral, but we can take unilateral action in defence, we can make unilateral declarations of support or condemnation, but we must make those decisions based on international law and proper evidence, not fall into line when the clamour of a colonial superpower tells us to, nor should we fall in silently behind an EU foreign policy statement. Charlie Flanagan you are bound by oath to respect our Constitutional neutrality, please do so.