Socialist and anti-war groups in Ireland are apprehensive of the nation’s engagement with the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation and other bids to weaken neutralityJune 24, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
CYM activists protesting at the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy at Cork University. (Image: CYM/Twitter)
Irish anti-war groups disrupted discussions over militarization and membership of military alliances at the government’s first national security consultation meeting that began at the University College Cork (UCC). On June 22, activists from the Connolly Youth Movement (CYM) disrupted the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy meeting with anti-war slogans and raised a red banner that read “NATO Wars! Millions Dead.”
Deputy head of government and foreign and defense minister Micheál Martin from the Fianna Fail of the ruling liberal-conservative coalition, was set to address the gathering, only to be interrupted by anti-war protesters on Thursday. The protestors were forcefully removed from the meeting.
Despite protests, the consultations continued with more meetings held at Galway on June 23, and more are scheduled for Dublin on June 26 and 27. The Consultative Forum on International Security Policy has been projected by the government as an event to supposedly develop understanding and generate discussions on Ireland’s foreign, security, and defense policies.
But anti-war advocates and progressive groups have raised concerns over the purpose behind these consultations. The Cork Neutrality League, a group that participated at the event at Cork, argued that the “forum was unfairly weighted towards supporters of increased militarization.”
During his address in Cork, Martin stated that people should not be squeamish about the Irish engagement with Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), a widely criticized EU security and defense program.
On Thursday, the Cork Committee of the Connolly Youth Movement (CYM) stated that the youth of the country is against Ireland joining any military alliance whether it is NATO or PESCO.
“The pro-NATO stacked event in Cork is scheming by the Fine Gael-Fianna Fail-Greens government in the county to artificially manufacture consent for their strategy to destroy Irish neutrality. In a period of crisis, the government is focusing on increasing militarization, while thousands are homeless and poverty is on the rise,” the statement added.
More protests and demonstrations will be expected, as the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) has also given a call to protest at the Consultative Forum in Dublin on June 26.
In Ireland, movements have for long opposed Ireland’s participation in the PESCO. Left-wing groups in Ireland are of the opinion that the traditional parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are compromising on the country’s long-cherished policy of neutrality ever since it joined PESCO in 2017.
Additionally, in September 2022, Ireland also provided EUR 55 million (around USD 59.89 million) worth of military aid—earmarked exclusively for non-lethal military assistance—to Ukraine through the European Peace Facility (EPF).
On June 22, Thursday, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on foreign affairs Matt Carty told the Consultative Forum at Cork that “Ireland should be focused on ending the conflict, rather than participating in it.” Speaking from the floor, he said that “Ireland’s neutrality has served the country well.”
Ireland’s continued political and diplomatic closeness to the EU, the US and the NATO has been a major point of contention for anti-war and socialist movements. A good example of that would be activists routinely protesting the continued use of the Shannon airport by the US and NATO for military purposes with the permission of the Irish government since 2001.
The war in Ukraine, the EU sanctions on Russian oil, and profiteering by energy giants has resulted in a cost of living crisis in Ireland like many other European countries. The CYM and other progressive groups have been protesting for years against the soaring housing crisis in Irish cities under the slogan “Raise the Roof.”