An old Irish neuralgia is back

Now here’s one where the Republic really is different from the European mainstream, never mind the UK – neutrality. I can recite the arguments, I know the history but I still can’t fathom its grip on modern Ireland’s consciousness. Pressure from a revived Lisbon Treaty campaign may cause Dublin to opt out of EU security arrangements in Bosnia and the EU sponsored mission to Chad. All because paranoid – or cynical- Lisbon treaty opponents have put the frighteners on mammies that their sons are going to be press ganged into military service. Completely bonkers of course. But anything to get the Lisbon No verdict reversed. I admit mission labelling can be confusing. The same armies, above all the British (unmentioned in the Irish Times article, strange that) deploy in EU, Nato and even UN commitments often in the same theatre but at different phases, but wearing different hats and shooting less for the UN. “Neutrality,” whatever that means today in C21 is an anachronism and the ideal way round it was via the EU. Even so, the whole Dublin establishment still seem prepared to allow themselves to be stampeded by the exploiters of an old neuralgia, a residual memory of post-independence, anti-imperial fears of being rolled over by the Brits. So it may be no more To Katanga and Back – even though there was never any question of marching through Georgia.

The subject of neutrality brings to mind Malcolm Redfellow’s wonderful contribution in an excellent thread last Friday. Worth reading if you didn’t see it and worth reading again even if you did.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London