REPORT ON IRISH NEUTRALITY, 1996/97
- John Goodwillie
This report aims to mention some of the main features of the
years developments in the field of Irish neutrality.
The year opened with the publication of the Governments white paper on foreign policy, Challenges and opportunities abroad. In relation to neutrality, the governments policy is of course dominated by the development of the European Union and the proposals being discussed in the Inter-Governmental Conference for increasing the EUs involvement in security. The white paper discussed the possibility of joining NATOs Partnership for Peace and listed the advantages of doing so, claiming that participation would not affect Irelands policy of neutrality. It also announced that the Government would discuss with the WEU the possibility of Ireland participating in the Petersberg tasks, commenting Participation in humanitarian or peacekeeping operations through the WEU would not involve Ireland in defence commitments of any kind under the WEU Treaty and would not therefore have implications for our policy of military neutrality.
The implications of the Governments thinking are clear: neutrality means mutual defence commitments; since we are not taking these on we are remaining neutral. By redefining neutrality they reconcile what might appear to be contradictory positions. In response, CND issued a press statement condemning the policy of involvement by stealth in the nuclear-weapons based forces of NATO. We also affiliated to the Peace and Neutraliy Alliance.
July saw the arrival of the US warship the JFK. CND affiliated to the Campaign Against the Warship Visit, and participated in its protest in Dún Laoghaire.
In September a NATO conference was held in Malahide under the sponsorship of the American Embassy.
We welcomed the majority for neutrality in a poll taken in October. This poll shows that the people still have an ideological commitment to neutrality but this majority depends on those who see no contradiction between a common foreign and security policy and neutrality.
In December we participated in the Other Europe NGO forum on the occasion of the IGC. While the sections of their draft document relating to security were acceptable to us, many of the other topics were well beyond the competence of a single-issue organisation such as CND and the draft was in fact not adopted by the meeting.
Issues which are coming to the forefront include plans by Germany and France to share defence decisions including the use of nuclear weapons, and the proposed expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe.
Back to Irish CND page on neutrality