Neutrality then and now

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Book Reviews, Devalera & Fianna Fail, Issue 3 (May/June 2010), Letters, The Emergency, Volume 18

In his review of T. Ryle Dwyer’s Behind the Green Curtain (HI 18.2,March/April 2010), Eoin Dillon states that the book ‘allows present-dayneutrality to be presented as contingent, a pragmatic response ratherthan a fixed principle of Southern foreign policy’. In 1939 the FiannaFáil government quoted the Hague Convention of 1907 to support Irishneutrality. It defines in international law the duties andresponsibilities of states that wish to be regarded as neutral. Itstates that a neutral state cannot allow its territory to be used intime of war. Indeed, as the reviewer observes, Ireland refused to makeany concession on the use of its ports or airports in the war, so thatit seems reasonable to suggest that, while the government did a gooddeal of ducking and weaving, as did other states such as Sweden andSwitzerland, Ireland’s policy was one of neutrality. The policy beingpursued today, however, is one in which Ireland no longer has a policyof neutrality, pragmatic or otherwise, but one of being an activesupporter of the US/EU/NATO wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq,with millions of US troops allowed to land in Shannon Airport and withseven Irish soldiers serving with NATO troops in Afghanistan. In fact,current Irish policy is a reversion to support for imperial wars asadvocated by the Redmondites. While I am no doubt politicallyprejudiced, the restoration of the imperial tradition is not‘progressive’ or ‘modern’. This book’s cover blurb, which states thatIreland’s neutrality in World War II was phony, is simply anothereffort to assert that we were never really neutral anyway, and thatthere was never even a partially successful challenge to imperialism.This is a core part of the ideology that goes a long way to explain whyso many historians never lifted a finger in opposing the ongoing andcurrent participation by this state in imperial wars.


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