One of the more curious aspects of European affairs in Ireland is how we become obsessed with certain issues (Neutrality, abortion) during debates about EU treaties, and yet hardly ever discuss them on our own time. I’m a reasonably well informed individual, and yet I have only a vague idea, for example, as to what the government’s position is on abortion. Fine Gael supports the right of an Irish citizen to abort a foetus outside of the country, whereas Labour is seemingly moderately pro-choice but not if in government. Glad that’s clear, then. As for neutrality, we are even more vague. We are opposed to war, and don’t take sides. We do let US forces use Shannon airport, though, whilst they are on the way to a war, which we are against, as long as we don’t have to actually do anything about it. Oh, and here’s the most beautiful part of our defence policy. In order to protect our neutrality, we took the power to deploy Irish troops abroad off our OWN national parliament, whom we don’t trust, and gave a veto on deployment to the US, UK, France, Russia and China. And they call Belgium the capital of European surrealism?
If we are serious about neutrality (and that’s a big if) we should have a referendum to define what we mean. Now, let’s be honest, Irish politicians don’t want that, because they don’t want their hands tied, which is fair enough, but that points to the problem at the heart of Irish politics, and not just our foreign policy. We constantly think that saying one thing and doing something else is clever. So let’s have a referendum to insert a realistic policy into the constitution. Let’s scrap the triple lock, and insert a pledge that Irish troops will only serve abroad in defence of the rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That means that we don’t do colonial wars, but we will do human rights interventions. Iraq no, Kosovo and Libya yes. Or we could just have the usual row when Lisbon III comes around. I won’t hold my breath.