AP front 1 - 2022

30 October 1997 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

Irish Neutrality and a Nuclear Arms free Europe

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) held a conference on the Amsterdam Treaty and Irish Neutrality in Dublin on Saturday 25 October. Speakers included Green MEP Patricia McKenna, Roger Cole, the Reverend Terence McCaughey, Billy Fitzpatrick of CND, Tomás MacGiolla and Dublin South West Sinn Féin representative Seán Crowe. We carry here edited versions of an article on PANA by its chairperson Roger Cole and Seán Crowe's speech.

      If a key demand of the Irish Peace Process is to take the gun out of Irish politics then the PANA demand is to take the gun out of European and international politics
By Roger Cole

The Peace & Neutrality Alliance was established to help build support for Irish neutrality which is being destroyed slowly as the EU is transformed into a nuclear armed superstate.

Many groups as diverse as the Workers Party, Sinn Féin and the Green Party have affiliated with PANA, along with most solidarity groups such as the East Timor Solidarity Group, Church groups such as Pax Christi and peace groups like CND. PANA clearly reflected a desire that we should remain committed to a policy of positive Irish neutrality.

If a key demand of the Irish Peace Process is to take the gun out of Irish politics then the PANA demand is to take the gun out of European and international politics.

Indeed it would be ironic if the Irish Peace process was to be declared successful on the basis of Ireland's integration into a nuclear armed superstate. To exchange the armalite for a finger on a nuclear bomb is not peace with justice, and in the ongoing negotiations of new constitutional arrangements PANA will continue to highlight its objectives. Since the SDLP proposes a three member executive in Northern Ireland, one of whom would be appointed by the EU Commission, this interlinking of the EU with a potential outcome of the Peace Process needs to be examined in the context of Ireland's overall relationship with the EU in such a way as to maximise Irish democracy rather than diminish it.

The main battle ahead will be the Referendum which the governments promised on the Amsterdam Treaty which will be held ironically enough in 1998, the 200th anniversary of the 1798 Rebellion. PANA seeks to crystallise opposition to the embryonic nuclear armed superstate and to develop our own future vision for Ireland and Europe, which is democratic, free of nuclear weapons and anti-imperialist.

The strategy for our victory in the Referendum has to be based on a number of basic concepts. PANA has to build as wide a base of support as possible and has to develop a strong international and European dimension to our campaign so that we are not accused of being isolationist. We have therefore linked with TEAM, The European Anti-Maastricht Movement, and our efforts to build links with the Irish diaspora needs to accelerated.

PANA has to clearly focus on the issue of nuclear weapons and the arms industry as the reason why the Amsterdam Treaty should be amended to stop Ireland from becoming further involved with the nuclear armed Western European Union.

While the recent election produced a minority Coalition government whose declared policy is closer to that of PANA than the defeated Rainbow Coalition, one should not underestimate the difficulties. The Fianna Fáil manifesto clearly opposed any moves to further integrate the State with the WEU more than the existing observer status, yet the Fianna Fail Minister for Foreign Affairs has uncritically welcomed the Treaty.

However, the establishment cannot now spend State money, it cannot promise the people millions of punts; many politicians are genuinely not supporters of a nuclear armed superstate. Because of party loyalty they might not support us but will not actively help the Euro-bullies. If those political forces who would support PANA both at home and abroad can be mobilised early enough then the possibility of a victory for those of us who seek a democratic and nuclear free Ireland and Europe is very real.

The key lies in PANA's ability to project the idea that its values of positive neutrality are part of Ireland's future not of its past; that it grows out of the democratic nationalist tradition of the United Irishmen rather than the imperial traditions of the Unionism or Home Rule.

Amsterdam - a step too far


The process of EU integration has been steadily eroding our sovereignty and our neutrality. At each stage successive governments have given a little more away. On the few occasions they have had to come to the people to approve their latest abandonment of our rights they have assured us that nothing has really changed.

They are saying the same thing this time around. Yet the reality is there in the words of the Amsterdam Treaty which reiterates the EU's ``common foreign and security policy'' and ``the progressive framing of a common defence policy''.

Speaking in Leinster House on 10 July the then Foreign Minister Ray Burke said the Treaty does not provide for integration of the NATO's Western European Union with the EU. ``Nor is EU-WEU integration stated anywhere in the Treaty as an objective,'' he added. But the Treatly clearly states: ``The Western European Union (WEU) is an integral part of the development of the Union providing the Union with access to an operational capability... It supports the Union in framing the defence aspects of the common foreign and security policy as set out in this Article. The Union shall accordingly foster closer insitutional relations with the WEU with a view to the possibility of the integration of the WEU into the Union, should the European Council so decide.''

Minister Burke also said that he ``did not see how integration could be compatible with our military neutrality''. This was a welcome statement but it is totally incompatible with the Declaration adopted at Amsterdam which commits this State to support the following:

``In the `Declaration on the Role of the Western European Union and its Relations with the European Union and with the Atlantic Alliance' of 10 December 1991, WEU Member States set as their objective `to build up WEU in stages as the defence component of the European Union'. They today reaffirm this aim as developed by the Amsterdam Treaty.''

The Irish government has signed up to that. They also signed up to a paragraph which gets very little attention and says:

``The progressive framing of a common defence policy will be supported, as member states consider appropriate, by co-operation between them in the field of armaments.''

It is often forgotten in the neutrality debate that part of Ireland is under the jurisdiction of one of the leading NATO powers - Britain. In the context of the peace process the British government has said that it has no strategic interest in the Six Counties and this is given credence on the basis of the ending of the Cold War and the removal of the fear of what one British minister once described as a possible Cuba on their doorstep. But strategic considerations are not only global.

During the course of the peace process my party has identified the role of what we have called the `securocrats' in the British establishment - military and intelligence top brass who have a vested interest in the continuation of conflict. For three decades they have used the Six Counties as a training ground for their troops and a testing ground for the most sophisticated surveillance equipment in the world. The end of the Cold War spread panic throughout the biggest single intelligence organisation - MI5. What could their new role be? They were duly given a much enhanced role in the Irish conflict.

Indeed the career of Stella Rimington, the most famous head of MI5 who pioneered its new role, was built on two things - fighting the National Union of Mineworkers and fighting the IRA.

I mention these issues to illustrate the point that powerful vested interests in the military and in their related arms industries can have political influence which is very often underestimated.

And meanwhile all the military apparatus of NATO in Ireland has yet to be reduced despite the peace negotiations.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1