DUBLIN german-foreign-policy.com interviewed Roger Cole on Irish neutrality and the Lisbon Treaty referendum. Roger Cole is Chair of the Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA, www.pana.ie).
german-foreign-policy.com: Ireland has a long tradition of neutrality. What does this neutrality mean for the Irish people?
Roger Cole: The first person to advocate Irish Neutrality was Theobald Wolfe Tone who wrote a pamphlet; "The Spanish War" in 1790 in which he advocated that the Irish Parliament would stay neutral in an impending resource war between the British and Spanish Empires. The war did not happen because of the even greater danger to the British Empire from the French Revolution. It was that Revolution that inspired Wolfe Tone and others to establish the United Irishmen that sought to establish an Independent Democratic Irish Republic. The United Irishmen were crushed by the military might of the British Union when over 30,000 United Irishmen were killed. However from then on the values of Irish Democracy, Irish Independence and Irish Neutrality have been strongly interlinked. When the Irish Republic was negotiating with the British Empire in the 1920's, the right to remain neutral was a core value achieved and meant that in 1939 Ireland remained neutral in the 2nd World War.
gfp.com: Is today's Irish policy still one of neutrality?
Cole: The policy of Irish neutrality was being continually attacked ever since we joined what was then known as the European Economic Community. The policy was finally terminated when in total contravention of the Hague Convention of 1907 US troops were allowed land in Shannon Airport on their way to their imperialist war in Iraq in February 2003.
gfp.com: What will be left of Irish neutrality should the Lisbon Treaty take effect?
Cole: The solidarity clause will be just another nail in the coffin. We are already an integral part of the US/EU/NATO military axis and this treaty just copperfastens it.
gfp.com: If neutrality is such an important element of Irish history - then who is appealing for a "yes" at the referendum, and why?
Cole: There has always been a substantial section of the Irish people who opposed Irish Neutrality and Irish Independence. In the 19th century over 30% of the British Army were Irish. The main political figures in the 2nd half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century like John Redmond only wanted Home Rule within the British Union. While they were defeated as a consequence of our war of Independence, they did not go away, and most of them changed their allegiance to Fine Gael (FG) Ireland's 2nd largest party who are now totally opposed to Irish Neutrality. The Irish Labour Party is very small and has largely seen themselves as FG supporters, so they have happily gone along with FG. The main dominate Party Fianna Fail has also been won over to ending Irish Neutrality and agreed to the use of Shannon Airport by the US. The main reason why they have shifted over is because they really do support the creation of a European Superstate and Ireland's best interests are served as part of the EU/US/NATO military axis because of the massive investment from US and EU companies. There is also a long history of political corruption among the Irish political caste and I am sure that is a factor as well. Business give political leaders a good deal of money, and arms manufacturers have long been part of that process.
gfp.com: How would you describe the German role in subverting Irish neutrality?
Cole: Not much. The German political elite clearly favour the creation of a European Army which they would hope and expect to dominate. The real problem is essentially the breaking of the will of the Irish people to be Independent. It has never been easy dominated as we were by the British Empire for 800 years. On our own, to take on the might of the emerging EU Empire is a bit daunting, and I believe it will only be after Irish soldiers start coming back in large numbers in bodybags will the spirit of Irish Independence be restored.