The Struggle for Irish Neutrality
Writing below, Roger Cole of the Peace & Neutrality Alliance recounts the struggle against the facilitation of imperialist powers in Ireland and states the need for Irish neutrality. Read on…
The Peace & Neutrality Alliance [PANA] held its first demonstration at Shannon Airport in May 2002 to protest against its use by US soldiers in the Afghan and then coming Iraq war.
The Alliance has participated in many such demonstrations since. In 2002, 73,000 US troops used Shannon Airport and, by 2009, 250,000 US troops were landing in Shannon. To date, nearly two million US troops, the equivalent of one third of the population of Ireland, have landed in the airport on their way to the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
Planes landing in Shannon Airport are not searched, despite the fact that there is a prima facie case to be made that ‘rendition’ flights have landed in Shannon carrying prisoners on to torture chambers elsewhere. Indeed, not only are the planes not searched by the Garda, the Twenty-Six County state has spent over €17 million on guarding them.
In May 2007, PANA commissioned Lansdowne Market Research to carry out an independent survey on the attitude of the public to Shannon Airport’s use by US troops in the run up to the Twenty-Six County general election that year.
People were asked: “Are you in favour of, or opposed to the use of Shannon Airport by US troops travelling to and from Iraq?”
The results were as follows:
In favour: 19 per cent
Opposed: 58 per cent
No opinion: 21 per cent
Don’t know: 2 per cent
This independent survey was all but ignored by the corporate media and the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the now-defunct Progressive Democrats all made it clear that they supported the war Iraq war and the use of Shannon Airport in that war during the election.
Thus, on this key issue of war and Ireland’s participation in it, there is clear blue water between the desires of the Irish political/media elite on one hand and the people on the other.
Since then, PANA has continued to campaign against the use of Shannon Airport, which is now spearheaded by a local group affiliated to PANA – Shannonwatch.
Our two websites – www.pana.ie and www.shannonwatch.org – provide substantial information on the ongoing use of Shannon Airport in these apparently unending wars.
The historical origins of Irish neutrality need to be understood.
In 1790, Theobald Wolfe Tone was the first to advocate Irish neutrality in a pamphlet entitled The Spanish War when the British Empire appeared likely to go to war with the Spanish Empire. Tone went on to be one of the founders of the Irish republican movement, so that the demands for Irish independence, democracy and neutrality became intertwined.
However, the original republicans in the United Irish Society were defeated and, throughout the 19th and early 20th century, Irish political leaders opposed national independence, seeking only, at best, a degree of home rule within the British Empire.
It was only with the 1916 Easter Rising and the Tan War that the values of Irish independence, democracy and neutrality were at least partially restored and ensured Twenty-Six County neutrality in World War 2. However, the home rule and imperialist values were not destroyed and their supporters just waited for their time to come again.
In European Union treaty after European Union treaty, these imperialist values grew stronger and stronger as the Irish political elite rejected the republican traditions of democracy, independence and neutrality and supported the acceleration of the integration of Ireland into the EU/US/NATO military structures.
PANA was the only alliance to campaign against the Amsterdam Treaty and provided a shock when 38 per cent voted no. An even bigger shock was caused, with the help of PANA, when the Nice Treaty was defeated as was the Lisbon Treaty, the core purpose of which was to accelerate the militarisation of the EU and liquidate the last remains of the already terminated policy of Irish neutrality. The policy that had, in fact, ended in 2003 when, without even the fig leaf of international law, the US went to war with Iraq and used Shannon Airport with the permission of the Irish political elite in total contravention of the 1907 Hague Convention which explicitly states that, if a state wishes to be regarded as neutral, it cannot allow its territory to be used by belligerents in a war.
When PANA’s international secretary took the Dublin government to court for allowing the use of Shannon Airport, the judge made it clear that the Twenty-Six Counties was, indeed, in breach of the Hague Convention, but since the convention was not part of Irish law, if the Dublin government wanted to end the long standing policy of Irish neutrality, a judge had no right to interfere with that decision.
Finally, the question arises about Ireland’s future. The Irish political/media elite is totally in favour of an imperialist neo-liberal militarist ideology. All they and their ideology now offer the Irish people is unending war and growing poverty. The elite all but totally exclude those in organisations such as PANA from the mainstream media.
However, this policy comes from fear, not from confidence. As anger rises, and new forms of media develop that allows us to communicate, resistance will grow stronger. The overwhelming reality is that the desire for Irish independence, democracy and neutrality can never be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.
They have their wealth and their power. We have the Fenian dead. We have generation after generation of Irish people who fought for our independence on our side. The outcome is inevitable. We will defeat them. The Republic will be established.