A British militarist’s view on Irish neutrality

It wasn’t a book I found particularly gripping or enlightening but I have just finished Tim Collins: Rules of Engagement. I thought it was mainly jingoistic, self-congratulatory and unsurprisingly celebratory of militarism.

However, the short section on Ireland’s neutrality he raised while accepting an honorary patronage of Trinity College Philosophical Society was a little challenging, so here it is;

‘Is Ireland’s traditional neutrality valid in modern times?’

I explained that it was my belief that we in the West were at war with an enemy who resented all that we stood for culturally and religiously. For complex reasons, which I contented were better understood in Ireland than in the US, the faceless enemy, global terrorism, had gone to war to address a feeling of injustice and to fight what they collectively perceived as the oppressor. These were the actors out with any nation state and therefore had no truck with diplomacy. They spoke the language of violence, but meeting this with violence was no answer in itself. That said, I suggested that all nations had a duty to become engaged in the war against terrorism, if only to show solidarity and to assure their citizens of some form of security – and that included Ireland. The faceless enemy could only be brought to the negotiating table if its violence was stifled by a blanket of security, as we had seen on the island of Ireland itself after thirty-five years of terrorism.

The enemy, I explained, did not recognise Ireland’s neutrality, nor did it understand it. Seeing the St Patrick’s Day celebration in the US, they would recognise that Ireland had a special relationship with the US and to them their enemy’s friend was also their enemy. Thus they would never accept that Ireland was neutral. Ireland, I urged them, must add its modest defence forces in order to claim a voice on the debate on world affairs, using its influence to moderate the US outlook on the world and in turn to moderate the old-world attitudes to the US. If that were successful, then Ireland, along with the UK, could act as an interlocutor for more productive, cordial and progressive ties between the US and the EU, so damaged by recent events.

My final point was that as long as men treated each other as less than men, then fear would lead to violence, which would lead to conflict and thus more fear. The way to break the cycle was to insist on the highest standards of treatment and justice for all and I urged this influential university to continue to demand those standards in all the actions of nations and to lead the way as they had always done.

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