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 Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'

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PostSubject: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 7:35 pm

I'm putting this in the Europe forum because it's tied in with the other discussion about Lisbon and neutrality.

The internationally accepted definition of neutrality is to be found in the Second Hague Convention here

We consider ourselves a neutral country - yet this is all our constitution has to say on the topic - article 28

3. 1° War shall not be declared and the State shall not participate in any war save with the assent of Dáil Éireann.



2° In the case of actual invasion, however, the Government may take whatever steps they may consider necessary for the protection of the State, and Dáil Éireann if not sitting shall be summoned to meet at the earliest practicable date.



3° Nothing in this Constitution other than Article 15.5.2° shall be invoked to invalidate any law enacted by the Oireachtas which is expressed to be for the purpose of securing the public safety and the preservation of the State in time of war or armed rebellion, or to nullify any act done or purporting to be done in time of war or armed rebellion in pursuance of any such law. In this sub-section "time of war" includes a time when there is taking place an armed conflict in which the State is not a participant but in respect of which each of the Houses of the Oireachtas shall have resolved that, arising out of such armed conflict, a national emergency exists affecting the vital interests of the State and "time of war or armed rebel-lion" includes such time after the termination of any war, or of any such armed conflict as aforesaid, or of an armed rebellion, as may elapse until each of the Houses of the Oireachtas shall have resolved that the national emergency occasioned by such war, armed conflict, or armed rebellion has ceased to exist.





The word 'neutrality' is not mentioned in this (as it is not mentioned in the Lisbon Treaty)

AVril Doyle's views are interesting in this context - doing a broad sweep of the history in an Irish context.

So there are a couple of questions to be asked:

Are we neutral?
What is the extent and nature of that neutrality?
Has Article 2 of the Hague Convention been compromised by the presence of American troops in Shannon (a rather creepy experience if you've ever shared Duty-Free shopping space with them)
Are some of those who worry about Ireland's neutrality confusing it with a desire to be non-aligned?
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 7:46 pm

We are not neutral in the 1907 Hague Convention V sense - this was established beyond argument in the High Court case of Horgan v An Taoiseach in 2003. The Court looked at the duties on neutral states set out in that Convention and accepted that a neutral was bound under customary international law not to allow foreign troops pass through its territory en route to battle. Ireland was doing that at Shannon. The government claimed it was following a more 'nuanced' form of neutrality and that there was no inconsistency between what it was allowing at Shannon and that more 'nuanced' tradition of neutrality. The Judge rejected that claim after looking at the evidence offered by both sides in the case.

He declined to stop the government in its tracks because he felt that would be going too far into the policy arena. He rejected the claim by Comdt Horgan (ret.) that Art 29.1 - 3 of the Constitution placed a duty on the government to abide by the principles of international law in a manner that entitled a citizen to take them to Court if they departed from that duty. The Court decided those parts of Article 29 were merely aspirational, and could not be enforced by any citizen.

I do not worry about Ireland's 'neutrality' - I just want the politicians to talk honestly about where we are and what we are signing up to in Lisbon. When and if that happened we could have the debate 'that dares not speak its name'. At which point I would argue strongly against tooling up the EU for battle.

You can see from previous discussions how difficult it is to get that debate going when the obfuscation of reality (Irish style) is of such a high order!

I will credit FG for occasional bursts of frankness on the topic. But they lose brownie points most times Gay Mitchell speaks - as this example shows he is well able to muddy the waters by conflating three or more different treaty clauses into one porridgy mess:

From his piece in IT on 25 03 08 -

As often happens, critics have focused on the reference to a mutual assistance clause in the treaty and misinterpreted this as meaning that Ireland is joining a military alliance. Ireland cannot join a common defence without a further specific referendum.
In reality, all the "mutual assistance" reference means is that if one state faces terrorist attack or natural disaster, the other countries will come to their aid; it will remain a decision for each state how to do so.

He mixes up the mutual defence clause and the solidarity clause, which of course are entirely different clauses miles away from each other in the treaty, and he throws in common defence which comes from another clause again just for good measure. I hope my post on the New Europe (!) thread shows how to take that befuddled stuff apart. If not get back to me....


Last edited by Helium Three on Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 7:58 pm

So what is the nature and extent of our 'neutrality', He3?

Does that judgement suggest that we are not in fact neutral at all - though I understand we are internationally recognised as being neutral, this judgement would seem to suggest we are not even non-aligned fraidy cats?

I appreciate that neutrality is not a one-size-fits-all garment - but the basic shape should be consistent, shouldn't it?
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:05 pm

The nature and extent of our 'neutrality' is something that I think should be explained to us by our government in terms that are at least credible and consistent. They have not done that.

My own answer fwiw is that it has been reduced in scope to a point where its only characteristic at the moment is non-membership of a military alliance. And as I have argued on the other thread, that last vestige goes with a Yes to Lisbon.

We retain the right to pick and choose our fights, sure, just as Nato members do, and no one suggests that makes them 'neutral'. So I don't see how the government or other Yes campaigners can say it is what keeps us 'neutral'.

Independence of action is a term I am more comfortable with - and in the way explained in the Crotty case judgments of Walsh, Hederman and Henchy, Lisbon further reduces that independence of action in this field. In our relations with the other EU countries we make a promise in Art 28A.7 - we must mean to keep it. If we do mean it, we are no longer 'neutral' by any definition I have seen so far in this debate.


Last edited by Helium Three on Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:09 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:08 pm

Surely No proponents are at least as guilty of defining neutrality (or at least failing to define it) for the sake of their argument? Some of them at least?
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:13 pm

Yes I agree there is wooliness on the No side too - but meanwhile I was posting my last reply which may have a bearing.

The Yes side know all about what Barroso and the rest understand us to be getting into with Lisbon - they are mostly well paid (by our taxes) to know.... the No side as usual are coming at this mostly in our spare time, with some exceptions. When you hold what the Yes side say up to the light it is transparent, but you need a strong light. With the woolier No people I see less evidence of deliberate deception, but no doubt there are exceptions!
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:17 pm

Quote :
The Yes side know all about what Barroso and the rest understand us to be getting into with Lisbon - they are mostly well paid (by our taxes) to know....

You can't say that He3, without saying what their agenda is... otherwise it sounds like a No-side conspiracy theory. Wink

Quote :
Yes I agree there is wooliness on the No side too - but meanwhile I was posting my last reply which may have a bearing.

Indeed.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:24 pm

No, no conspiracy needed. The bulk of the Yes people are entirely convinced they are right in getting Lisbon through for various reasons. They also contain a strong strand that believes the voters are peasants who could not handle the truth. 'Neutrality' holds a real place in Irish people's hearts still, especially traditional FF people. With reason. And because (unlike FG or PD) their political reps have never brought them with them on this (r)evolution of policy, come referendum time they are afraid to talk straight. Hence all this Pat the Cope garbage.

It is not new and it is not a conspiracy. Just the politics of Irish EU referenda. We find out what we were voting for after the vote, not before.

Back in 1986 the government assured the Supreme Court the SEA was only a tidying up job - nothing really to it - Happily the Court saw that for what it was. The government tactic has not changed. (It amuses me how they are the ones who accuse the No side of repeating the same old same old for twenty or thirty years....)

In passing, the lengthy piece on Irish Neutrality and Lisbon by Tom Clonan in the IT on Friday deserves study. It managed to omit any mention of the mutual defence clause.... Instead it offers what seems intended to be reassurance with this remarkable statement: ''a Yes vote would guarantee Ireland's ability to veto any future common defence concept''.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:40 pm

Interesting thread - I've always wondered was it possible to have a conversation about "neutrality" in the Irish context without being struck down deaf and dumb by God and St Patrick.

Just in the door - will get back to yis later
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:45 pm

I have to admit, Irish neutrality is sui generis. It's a policy, rather than being constitutional, and seems to consist almost entirely of non-commitment.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:48 pm

ibis wrote:
I have to admit, Irish neutrality is sui generis. It's a policy, rather than being constitutional, and seems to consist almost entirely of non-commitment.

What do you mean by that, ibis? Ireland is very committed internationally. We are the second most globalised nation, we are one of the top donors of ODA(as a % of GNP) we commit our troops to several UN missions, we have a network of missionaries and NGOs that trot the globe helping out. How could Ireland be uncomitted in that context?
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:07 pm

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
ibis wrote:
I have to admit, Irish neutrality is sui generis. It's a policy, rather than being constitutional, and seems to consist almost entirely of non-commitment.

What do you mean by that, ibis? Ireland is very committed internationally. We are the second most globalised nation, we are one of the top donors of ODA(as a % of GNP) we commit our troops to several UN missions, we have a network of missionaries and NGOs that trot the globe helping out. How could Ireland be uncomitted in that context?

I must say I would use the word 'engaged' there.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:21 pm

Reminds me of a story about sandwiches and commitment: the ham is there because the pig is committed; and the egg is there because the hen is involved...
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:23 pm

Kate P wrote:
Reminds me of a story about sandwiches and commitment: the ham is there because the pig is committed; and the egg is there because the hen is involved...

Laughing

That's probably it. Myself and ibis having a semantic difference of opinion on the matter. Imo, Ireland is quite internationally committed to a number of causes, organisations and treaties.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:34 pm

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
Kate P wrote:
Reminds me of a story about sandwiches and commitment: the ham is there because the pig is committed; and the egg is there because the hen is involved...

Laughing

That's probably it. Myself and ibis having a semantic difference of opinion on the matter. Imo, Ireland is quite internationally committed to a number of causes, organisations and treaties.

That's also true, of course, although most of those, in turn, are pretty much politically neutral.

I think the basic idea is that we've never been militarily aligned with anyone - formally. Clearly we are informally militarily aligned with the US, for the reasons He3 gave - we allow the passage of US troops through Shannon. In WW2, we allowed crashed Allied airmen to exit via the North, and interned Axis airmen.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:38 pm

ibis wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
Kate P wrote:
Reminds me of a story about sandwiches and commitment: the ham is there because the pig is committed; and the egg is there because the hen is involved...

Laughing

That's probably it. Myself and ibis having a semantic difference of opinion on the matter. Imo, Ireland is quite internationally committed to a number of causes, organisations and treaties.

That's also true, of course, although most of those, in turn, are pretty much politically neutral.

I think the basic idea is that we've never been militarily aligned with anyone - formally. Clearly we are informally militarily aligned with the US, for the reasons He3 gave - we allow the passage of US troops through Shannon. In WW2, we allowed crashed Allied airmen to exit via the North, and interned Axis airmen.

Well, that's the essence of it! We never declare for anybody so that means we can run with the hare and chase with the hound. That doesn't mean we're not committed, it means we're not committed to committing to one specific group, bloc or idea. We have a freedom of allies and partners which is far greater than other countries. Ireland keeps quiet about those that it assists so that we can retain that fleixibility. It's a great strategy since it avoids making enemies of other countries.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:43 pm

Alternatively it makes us look ridiculous; that we fly the flag of neutrality but flaunt the fact that we are aligned.

But maybe we don't do credibility very well here. It mightn't make us enemies, as you so optimisitically put it but it certain won't recommend us as unconditional friends to anyone. Those who run with the hare and hunt with the hound are hard to trust.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:48 pm

Kate P wrote:
Alternatively it makes us look ridiculous; that we fly the flag of neutrality but flaunt the fact that we are aligned.

But maybe we don't do credibility very well here. It mightn't make us enemies, as you so optimisitically put it but it certain won't recommend us as unconditional friends to anyone. Those who run with the hare and hunt with the hound are hard to trust.

True, but as long as the hare and the hound don't talk, we're alright, aren't we? All we have to do is keep our allegiances quiet and we'll be fine. Everyone will think we're their best friend and do things for us. Like consummate politicians, the trick is to make everyone think that they are the most important thing in the world to us.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:02 am

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
Kate P wrote:
Alternatively it makes us look ridiculous; that we fly the flag of neutrality but flaunt the fact that we are aligned.

But maybe we don't do credibility very well here. It mightn't make us enemies, as you so optimisitically put it but it certain won't recommend us as unconditional friends to anyone. Those who run with the hare and hunt with the hound are hard to trust.

True, but as long as the hare and the hound don't talk, we're alright, aren't we? All we have to do is keep our allegiances quiet and we'll be fine. Everyone will think we're their best friend and do things for us. Like consummate politicians, the trick is to make everyone think that they are the most important thing in the world to us.

You think?
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:08 am

Kate P wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
Kate P wrote:
Alternatively it makes us look ridiculous; that we fly the flag of neutrality but flaunt the fact that we are aligned.

But maybe we don't do credibility very well here. It mightn't make us enemies, as you so optimisitically put it but it certain won't recommend us as unconditional friends to anyone. Those who run with the hare and hunt with the hound are hard to trust.

True, but as long as the hare and the hound don't talk, we're alright, aren't we? All we have to do is keep our allegiances quiet and we'll be fine. Everyone will think we're their best friend and do things for us. Like consummate politicians, the trick is to make everyone think that they are the most important thing in the world to us.

You think?

It's not a very moral position, is it?
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:11 am

Not a very practical or productive one either, I would have thought.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Mon Apr 21, 2008 4:02 am

two thread on this?

we need to look at the use of words like the eu defends while the iraq had ministry for war! and apparently its a missile 'shield' going in over there to the east.

we're so full of shit.


Last edited by lostexpectation on Mon Apr 21, 2008 1:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Mon Apr 21, 2008 4:24 am

I've had a look at both of these threads, lostexpectation, to see if it was worth merging them. However, this one is about neutrality in general and the other is specifically to do with Lisbon. You could say that one has a finite shelf life, while the other doesn't (though you could hazard a guess as to which is which!) So I'm going to leave them as separate animals for the time being.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:52 pm

Shouldn't we have had a proper debate on this before the Lisbon Treaty?

My inner cynic (down cynic! down!) considers that those in power think it's more expedient to have the No side appear like cranks defending what is literally and figuratively indefensible. Then there is no actual engagement with what our 'neutrality' is, whether it's worth the paper it's written on. And there's no need to explain to the masses that their notion of neutrality is actually an illusion.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland and 'Expedient Neutrality'   Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:56 pm

Kate P wrote:
Shouldn't we have had a proper debate on this before the Lisbon Treaty?

My inner cynic (down cynic! down!) considers that those in power think it's more expedient to have the No side appear like cranks defending what is literally and figuratively indefensible. Then there is no actual engagement with what our 'neutrality' is, whether it's worth the paper it's written on. And there's no need to explain to the masses that their notion of neutrality is actually an illusion.

Hmm...my inner cynic suspects that the No side don't care as much about Neutrality as they claim, since with certain exceptions (PANA, for example), they don't make a song and dance about it except when it's a handy stick to beat the EU with.
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