Here’s an awkward reality. Whatever your attitude to neutrality, it’s fair to say that the chances of Russian or Chinese boots on the ground in Ireland is pretty slim. Air incursions yes. Getting bombed? Maybe. Naval meddling with infrastructure in our sovereign seas? Almost certainly happening already.
But actual physical invasion? Very very unlikely. Geography is our greatest weapon in the same way it was the UK’s in May 1940.
Except for NATO forces. The likelihood of NATO forces engaging in an offensive landing here is actually higher.
Consider the following scenario.
The Russians have launched an invasion of Finland and the Baltics. The Third World War has begun, and the United States is mobilising large quantities of personnel and equipment by both air and sea across the Atlantic to bolster its European allies. Ireland declares its neutrality and calls for the United Nations to something something something.
Those reinforcements come under immediate attack from Russian planes and submarines in a new battle of the Atlantic, and NATO commanders announce that the use of the airports of Shannon and Knock are deemed vital to the defence of Europe. The US president speaks directly to the Taoiseach requesting permission to use the airports. It is not the usual fluffy conversation between an Irish leader and an American leader, full of bromides and winks.
The Taoiseach is asked bluntly: will she openly permit, within hours, NATO use of the airports. NATO commits as part of the arrangement to deploy US aircraft to defend Ireland from the definite Russian retaliation.
An emergency vote in the Dail fails.
Within hours, US forces are landing in large numbers in both airports, having been secured by rapidly deployed special forces seizing control of the airport towers. Due to the lack of military radar, the first the Irish government knows of the attack is clips on Twitter and TikTok of US troops on Irish soil.
The Irish army is deployed a day later, with clear instructions not to engage US troops, and leaving a wide zone around both facilities. The US general in command invites his Irish counterpart to a hearty breakfast in Shannon to agree rules of engagement and ensure there are no misunderstandings. The Irish government also agrees that the occupying forces can source food and other products from local suppliers. The US agrees to pay all Shannon and Knock employees to stay at home.
Large numbers of left wing protestors turn up, and are warned by Irish security forces that once they cross into the “control zone” they cannot be protected, and US forces may use deadly force against them. They protest the US invasion, and charge the perimeter, but are repelled by non-lethal microwave weapons which cause great discomfort. Solicitors letters fly towards the US military like HIMARS projectiles.
The Russian government condemns the Irish government for permitting the invasion under the cover of sham neutrality.
“Why did Ireland, one of the richest countries on Earth, not detect the incoming US planes with its military radar and shoot down the planes with its fighter planes? Why are Irish forces not fighting right now to liberate occupied territory from NATO forces? Why are the Irish not defending Irish neutrality? A mere 5000 US troops are occupying a country of 5 million people? Well, Russia will strike in defence of Irish neutrality if the puppet government in Dublin will not.” The Russian ambassador declares.
A number of Russian bombers attack Ireland, with a large number shot down by US and RAF fighters, but with bombs landing in both Shannon and Knock, killing 50 people, both US and Irish.
Two Irish MEPs support the Russian “liberation”.
As hostilities draw to a close in Europe following the Russian defeat and withdrawal, the US announces that NATO forces will withdraw from Ireland shortly, and that the US will fund repairs to both airports.
Local suppliers and politicians call on the Dublin government to lobby Washington to prevent withdrawal, as local businesses have become used to the US military spend.
Continuing the great Irish tradition of elected Irish politicians passionately discussing areas outside their actual area of direct responsibility, Clare County Council passes a motion for Clare to join NATO. Dublin City Council writes to Cuba seeking Cuban forces to intervene.