1st December 2017: Russian forces enter Estonia, Finland and Poland, taking NATO by surprise. Resistance in all three countries is stiff, and US, UK, French, German and Italian aircraft all provide air support.
In the Dail, the Irish government condemns the invasion. Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein call for the United Nations “to act”. They are not specific on detail.
2nd December: it is now clear that a full Russian invasion is underway. Media briefings in Moscow clarify that the purpose of the “pre-emptive defensive action” is to secure the Baltic states, Poland and Finland as neutral states outside of NATO. President Putin goes on TV to explain the action, and, speaking in fluent German, pledges that only those countries are combat areas, and that Russian forces will not invade other European countries.
3rd December: the US President contacts the Taoiseach to formally request the use of Shannon, Knock, Dublin airports and Cork harbour as secondary ports to supply US reinforcements to continental Europe. The Taoiseach says he will put the request to the government and parliament.
4th December: the Russian ambassador, speaking on RTE, informs listeners that Irish neutrality will be respected, as long as Ireland does not aid combatants in either way.
5th December; 20,000 march in a Not Our War! march on O’Connell Street. Left, Sinn Fein and Labour TDs are prominent. Finnish forces manage to halt the Russian advance with support from Swedish, Danish and Spanish troops.
6th December: an emergency meeting of the cabinet to discuss the crisis and the US request lasts 14 hours, without conclusion. A number of Labour ministers publicly call for Ireland to remain out of the conflict. Tallin is captured by Russian forces. Fierce fighting continues in Poland.
7th December: The Taoiseach is slapped in the face by the Estonian President at an emergency EU Council when he suggests that Ireland may remain neutral. She calls him a traitor, and has to be restrained by her foreign minister. The only state that sides with Ireland is Cyprus. News comes in during the meeting that Estonia has now fallen. The Estonian president breaks down. The other neutral states side with Poland, Finland and the Baltic states. The Taoiseach tries to make a speech about how Ireland is against war and calls for peace. The Finnish prime minister gets up and walks out as the Taoiseach is in mid-sentence. Afterwords, the Taoiseach’s spokesperson suggests that other country’s cannot grasp Ireland’s enlightened attitude to peace, perhaps because “they didn’t go through the Famine.”
8th December: a candlelit vigil outside the Dail by Polish, Finns and Baltic state citizens asking for help is attacked by a Not Our War! counter demonstration. The Garda Public Order Squad is deployed. A meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party votes to oppose Irish involvement. A dozen Labour TDs, including current and former ministers, announce to a large media crowd that they will vote to support the US and EU against their whip.
9th December: The cabinet splits on the issue, with the Taoiseach wanting to support the allies, and the Tanaiste supporting neutrality. Both agree to a free vote in the Dail. German, British, US and French forces manage to halt the Russians halfway through Latvia. Ireland agrees to start taking in refugees. Across Europe, newspapers start noting and criticising Ireland’s refusal to assist in the defence of Finland, Estonia and Poland. British newspapers in particular take up the cause. The subject of Hitler condolences is once again a topical discussion. In Helsinki and Warsaw Irish pubs have to be closed by police to prevent their being hit by petrol bombs. The Irish ambassador to the US leaves the government in no uncertain terms as to the attitude of the US political and media establishment which is shocked at Ireland’s hesitation.
10th December: The Dail begins to debate a motion to permit NATO operations in Ireland. Further outbreaks of public disorder occur outside the Dail. Although outnumbered, Polish and Estonian protestors, many with military experience, are more than a match for some republican activists who seem surprised to encounter people fighting back. The Russian ambassador, two hours before the vote, informs Bryan Dobson on Six:One News that if Ireland joins the allies, it will “regrettably, and with great sadness, be a legitimate target for Russian attacks.”
The Dail narrowly votes against supporting the allies. The US president expresses his “great sadness”. Across Europe, Irish pubs and embassies witness attacks. In the US Congress, an emergency bill to suspend various visa programmes is prepared.
Israel announces it is sending two tank battalions to assist NATO forces. The Israeli prime minister takes a certain pleasure in highlighting that unlike Ireland, Israel will stand by its friends.
In the north, standing in front of the flags of the US, France, Germany, Finland, Poland and Estonia, First Minister Peter Robinson pledges the full co-operation of the Northern Ireland Executive with the allied war effort. Excerpts from the speech is run on Fox News and elsewhere for two days. Sinn Fein announce they are withdrawing from the executive. The Gardaí report an upsurge in racist attacks on Poles and other Eastern Europeans.
11th December: A US troop transport is hit by Russian torpedoes off the coast of Cork, with the loss of 800 US service personnel. An unverified but widely reported source in the Pentagon suggests that if Ireland had been involved in the war effort, naval resources based in Ireland could have prevented the attack. Irish ambassador is assaulted in Washington by Irish-American demonstrators. The President of Sinn Fein is secretly filmed telling Irish-American donors that he would support Ireland joining the war, but then says his words were “taken out of context” when the footage is shown in Ireland.
12th December: NATO forces are now fully counter attacking, pushing Russian forces back in Finland, Poland and the Baltics.
14th December: Another troop transport is sunk off the Irish coast, with the loss of 350 US and Canadian personnel. The refusal of Ireland to assist the allied effort is now a consistent component of the debate on the war in the US media.
16th December: A huge protest by Irish-American veterans is held outside the Irish embassy in Washington. The Irish ambassador reports that a draft bill is going before the senate to scrap the J1 visa scheme and to specifically tax US companies based in Ireland
18th December: NATO forces enter Estonia amidst heavy fighting. Austrian troops take part in the fighting. In Finland, Swedish forces fight alongside their Finnish and NATO counterparts, expelling the Russians.
19th December: An EU council meeting is delayed when a number of delegates demand that Ireland and Cyprus be excluded on security grounds. The Polish president is adamant that “given Ireland and Cyprus’s pro-Russian tendencies, I am not willing to discuss my country’s young men getting killed in front of traitors.” The Taoiseach protests vehemently, but is greeted in silence. Both he and the Cypriot president agree to leave the room after France threatens to convene an informal meeting of all member states except Ireland and Cyprus.
21st December: Russia announces that it has made its point, and withdraws its forces. NATO forces enter Talinn. In an emergency session of the European Parliament, 260 MEPs vote for a non-binding resolution to request that Ireland and Cyprus, being “unreliable partners unwilling to share solidarity with other European nations under attack” leave the European Union. Irish MEPs object strongly to the motion, and the phrase “the traitor nations” which is used as shorthand.
In the Dail, the Taoiseach is asked what is he going to do to ensure this will not affect future CAP negotiations.