Friday, July 7, 2000


Sir, - As president of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament I remember
the courtesy with which Messrs Aiken, Andrews and other Fianna Fáil ministers
in a past, pre-tribunal age treated the views of that organisation even when they
did not always agree with them. Now it seems that a Government obviously
losing popular support proposes to regain it by deliberately insulting its
opponents. I refer to an ignorant and abusive statement from Mr Brian Cowen
last weekend denouncing critics of his party's military policy as "supporters of
isolationism masquerading as advocates of neutrality".

In the first place, if a minister intends to be taken seriously it is his duty to find
out what his opponents' outlook really is before he starts insulting them. How
would Cowen like being described as a potential agent of the international trade
in armaments masquerading as a normal peaceloving citizen?

I can assure this individual that long before he was born, because my mother
lived in Italy, I used to go there for school holidays and consequently learnt
Italian. Then, sent to a school in England that fostered an outlook as arrogant as
the minister's, I walked out and found myself a job in a Dutch ship which visited
ports in Spain, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, with all of which countries I have
kept contact in the intervening 70 years.

After that I worked for periods in France, Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Tunisia and
Yugoslavia, which necessitated using at least one of the languages used locally,
and found myself in due course a member of the marine academies of France
and Portugal and the Instituto Browniano in Argentina. Now I am accused by an
ignorant braggart of being "isolationist".

As a supporter in the past of the League of Nations and, until recently, of the
United Nations, and as (unlike many colleagues in the peace movement) a
convinced socialist, which means a convinced internationalist, I am like many
fellow-citizens suspicious of my country joining a military alliance dominated by
ruthless "great" powers. - Yours, etc.,
JOHN de COURCY IRELAND, President, The Irish Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament, Grosvenor Terrace, Dalkey, Co Dublin.


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