By Dermot QUINN, Steve JAMES

The Irish coalition government made up of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party has seized on the humanitarian crisis generated by the Russia-Ukraine war to intensify efforts to abandon Ireland’s formal neutrality and lead the country into the imperialist war fighting alliance, NATO and related European Union (EU) military structures.

Over 47,000 Ukrainian refugees have now arrived in Ireland. This has emboldened mainstream media efforts to echo the remarks of Ireland’s former Taoiseach and deputy premier Leo Varadkar, who branded Russian premier Vladimir Putin “the Hitler of the 21st century’”. A wave of anti-Russian hysteria has been whipped up, sanctioned by the government and encouraged and egged on by the state broadcasting service RTE.

In April, US puppet and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ireland’s Dáil (parliament), “Although you are a neutral country, you have not remained neutral to the disaster and to the mishaps that Russia has brought to Ukraine.”

Address by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, at a Joint Sitting of Dáil & Seanad Éireann in Leinster House on April 6, 2022 [Photo by Houses of the Oireachtas/Flickr / CC BY 4.0]

Address by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, at a Joint Sitting of Dáil & Seanad Éireann in Leinster House on April 6, 2022 [Photo by Houses of the Oireachtas/Flickr / CC BY 4.0]

There has been a backlash from right-wing pro-NATO members of the Dáil and media over remarks made by Sabina Higgins, the wife of President Michael D. Higgins, who wrote a letter to the Irish Times at the beginning of August calling for peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Higgins’ letter enraged those leading the pro-NATO campaign, particularly as her proposal for talks had avoided the requisite anti-Russian rhetoric.

The move to formally abandon neutrality coincides with decisions by Sweden and Finland to join NATO. The Irish shift is part of the massive escalation in efforts by the US and European imperialist powers to encircle Russia and accelerate the drive to all-out war. The Irish ruling elite want to show just how loyal they are to their imperialist allies.

This is in defiance of overwhelming opposition from working people. A recent Irish Times/lpsos poll showed that 66 percent of Irish people do not want any change in Ireland’s current position. Only 24 percent supported change, while 11 percent did not know. Ireland’s currently policy precludes the country from joining any military alliance and requires a United Nations Security Council resolution for Irish troops to be committed abroad.

Origins of Irish neutrality

Popular support for military neutrality is bound up with hostility among Irish workers to the horrors of imperialism. By contrast, the Irish ruling class has for decades employed neutrality as a tactic to advance its own class interests by attempting to use one or other imperialist power as a counterweight to Britain.

The Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) was founded one hundred years ago in 1922 based on crushing all working class demands that went beyond the interests of the Irish bourgeois nationalists. These later founded Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, still the two main bourgeois parties.

The intention of those who took control of the 26-county state in the South of Ireland, after bloody partition by Britain, and having suppressed the working class, was to keep the South of Ireland subordinate to imperialist interests. The Irish Free State came into existence as a mechanism by which the British ruling class could rely on the weak Irish bourgeoisie to prevent opposition to British domination of the island spilling over into a struggle for socialism in Ireland and Britain itself.

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