Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions
Shannon Airport Landings: Discussion (Resumed)
I apologise to our guests for the slight delay in starting. It is the last meeting of the joint committee before recess and we had a number of issues to deal with in private session. I thank our guests for their patience.
The items for today is No. P00072/2012 from Dr. Edward Horgan and others relating to the landings at Shannon Airport and a discussion of Ireland's neutrality and the difference between Irish neutrality and political neutrality. I ask people to be careful with their mobile phones as they interfere with the reception here and broadcasting. It is frustrating for people watching.
We are pleased to welcome Dr. Karen Devine, lecturer in international relations at the school of law and government at Dublin City University. Following a Fulbright scholarship at Columbia University in New York from 2012 to 2013, Dr. Devine's current research is a book on the impact of patriotism on public attitudes to foreign policy in the US and Ireland. We also welcome Mr. Paddy Smyth, foreign policy editor at The Irish Times. Mr. Smyth is the former foreign correspondent at the newspaper, having served as both Washington and European correspondent. Since his return from the US in 2002, he has been opinion editor and foreign policy editor. He is currently working as a leader writer in the editor's office and co-ordinates the newspaper's Century project - the coverage of the 1912-1922 decade of centenaries.
The invitation to address the committee arose as a result of ongoing investigations by the committee relating to No. P00072/2012 regarding US military and CIA use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace. The petitioner is Dr. Edward Horgan. I welcome the witnesses and thank them for forwarding their presentations.
I will now read the standard information regarding parliamentary privilege. We will then have a scene-setter, setting the context for the witnesses' contributions. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
We will talk about some of the work we have done to set the scene. The witnesses will probably be familiar with it but I will provide it for people viewing today and to have it on the record. I will recap our work to date on this petition for members and the witnesses. We have had public hearings with the petitioner and completed a visit to Shannon Airport where a delegation met the Shannon Group, which was formerly the Shannon Airport Authority. We met Ms Rose Hynes, chairman; Mr. Neil Pakey, CEO; Mr. Niall Maloney, head of operations; and Ms Mary Considine, company secretary at the Shannon Group. The delegation met members of An Garda Síochána, including Chief Superintendent John Kerin, Superintendent Derek Smart and Inspector Tom Kennedy. Finally, the delegation met with the petitioner, Dr. Edward Horgan, in Shannon Airport.
During the visit to Shannon Airport, members were advised that there are three types of landings. They are civilian charter flights with transport military personnel who may have personal weapons or side arms which are maintained on board under lock and require prior approval from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The second type is military aircraft which require a diplomatic note commonly referred to as a dip note. It is standard on the dip note that such aircraft do not carry any weapons or ordnance. The third type is other military aircraft where a sovereign state seeks permission to land or over fly Irish airspace where the aircraft is transport for a head of state visiting Ireland or stopping en routeto another destination. Granting the right to land or over fly Irish airspace is vested in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The procedure is that the relevant authorities of a sovereign state apply to the relevant Irish authority, which is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for permission to land or over fly. An Garda Síochána has no role in the granting of the dip note. This is under the sole authority of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The dip notes do not allow weapons on board the aircraft and aircraft with dip notes have the same status as an embassy. It was a very useful series of clarifications around the respective roles of the persons we met.
As a follow-up to the visit to Shannon Airport and to gain a greater understanding of the dip note or prior approval system, members invited Mr. Niall Burgess, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport; and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to address the committee. These public hearings were important in giving a focus to what members consider to be a key issue, namely, what is Irish neutrality.
Today's hearing is the final one in the series. When it is completed, we will conclude our deliberations. The witnesses' contributions are very important in terms of their perspectives on neutrality. I have read some of their perspectives delivered in the past. Former Senator Maurice Hayes wrote the foreword to the conference papers presented at a conference on 8 and 9 May 2009 entitled "Neutrality: Irish Experience, European Experience" organised by the Irish School of Ecumenics and the Dublin Monthly Meeting Quakers Peace Committee and edited by Iain Atack and Seán McCrum. I was not present at the conference but I have read the transcripts. It was a really excellent and though-provoking series of engagements. Dr. Devine and Mr. Smyth were present at the conference and would have presented to it. The next issue is important in setting the scene for our discussion.
In his foreword, Maurice Hayes stated:
Neutrality has for so long been a given in Irish foreign policy and has taken such a firm hold on the Irish imagination that it has come to be regarded almost as a constitutional imperative - which is far from the case. The Constitution merely reserves the right to wage war to the government of the day with the approval of the Dáil, and this has been further restricted by the requirement of Oireachtas consent and Security Council approval – the famous "triple lock" of the Nice Treaty endorsement.
How and why such a policy developed is lost in the mists of time – linked as it has been at various times to an anxiety not to get involved in World War II, to partition, to a preference for peace-keeping and conflict resolution, and at others to reservations about a European Common Security and Defence Policy.
The question arises therefore whether neutrality, as professed and practised, is pragmatism masquerading as moral principle, ideology which is not fully explained, or a well-thought-out ethical position which has not yet found the language and methodology for practical application.
There does, it seems, need to be a serious attempt to define neutrality, to spell out what it means in modern circumstances, especially since other traditionally neutral countries in Europe seem to be changing their stances in response to changed realities and relationships and new perceptions of threat and national interest. The changes in global political alignments too, where old enemies become, if not friends, at least partners in a new struggle against emerging common threats, make it all more difficult, and a less than Manichean differentiation of good and evil raises the question of which side, if any, we should be on.
There must be a question too whether real neutrality implies a capacity for self-defence, and whether there is any half-way house between neutrality in this sense and having no defence at all; whether neutrality is a negative concept, or whether a more positive formulation can be found within the structures of international treaties by which the Irish polity has bound itself.
There are, indeed, two views of the status of the neutral state: that of the state declaring its neutrality (which has little relevance except in time of war) and that of other states who may be potentially belligerent. These perspectives may not necessarily be the same, and it is hard to see what guarantees can be assumed by a small and isolated state which is not part of some larger arrangement for mutual assurance and protection – which in itself carries the implication of some sort of premium being required for membership.
This brings into the debate the implications of membership of the European Union, and the degree of commitment required to a common security and defence policy, whether this can be limited in practice (or indeed in conscience) as current Irish policy requires.
Questions then, more than answers at this stage. There may well not be clear answers which will satisfy everyone in a field redolent of fudge and ambiguity at the best of times even for the most self-confident of states. This is an area in which accommodation needs to be found by examining cases and their implications, by honestly facing up to difficulties, and by openly debating the issues.
That was the foreword or scene setter for the transcript and we thought it would be useful to reiterate it today. I invite Mr. Smyth to make his presentation.
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
I do not know if I can cast any light on this subject. I thank the committee for the invitation to address it on the issue of Dr Horgan's petition and specifically on the question of Irish neutrality. I am currently the foreign policy editor of The Irish Timesand what limited expertise I have on the subject comes from years of reporting and commenting on issues around neutrality and most specifically this State’s engagement with the idea and the institutions of the emerging European defence union. I am not a lawyer. My reflections will be mainly on the doctrine and political assumptions underlying the State’s foreign and security policy.
The committee's Chairman has on a number of occasions sought legal and political definitions of neutrality from its witnesses, somewhat unsuccessfully I suspect. Both the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Niall Burgess, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, have argued that definitions of neutrality in international law relate specifically to “time of war”, and that Ireland’s own operational, not legal, peacetime definition consists straightforwardly in “non-participation in military alliances”. It arises from political aspirations and only from the most general of constitutional commitments to peace and peacekeeping.
In the context of Ireland’s EU membership, the State’s neutrality, its “non-participation in military alliances”, is taken to mean more precisely a refusal to become involved in any North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, Article 5-like “one for all, all for one” promises, that is, promises automatically to come to the defence of any member state that is attacked or threatened.
That the EU in many respects is becoming what most people would see as a military alliance is beyond doubt – it does peace-enforcing, humanitarian missions, pursues international criminals, confronts pirates, shares arms purchasing and research and, increasingly, in ways that, like the proverbial walking duck, walks and talks like an alliance. Unlike NATO, it does not do territorial collective defence. It is not, yet anyway, a “defence union”. Ireland’s “neutrality” remains inviolate.
The Seville Declarations on the Treaty of Nice and subsequent declarations acknowledge and accommodate Ireland's "traditional policy of military neutrality”, whatever that may mean. The principle of not signing up to “common defence” is constitutionally enshrined, following both Nice and Lisbon treaties, in Article 29.4. 9°. It has to be said, however, that given Ireland’s political commitment to the EU and its integrity, it seems to me inconceivable that Ireland would not voluntarily join in the defence of any member under attack, just as it has seen the extension of loans to a bankrupt Greece as an essential imperative arising from the solidarity on which the union is based and from which this country too has benefitted.
The idea of military neutrality so-defined, Mr Burgess and Deputy Charles Flanagan argued, and I agree, is not in any way incompatible with a political and legal commitment to the primacy of multilateral collective security cooperation under the auspices of the United Nations which is seen, as Mr Burgess put it as "primarily responsible for international peace ... We support actions of the UN Security Council in accordance with the UN Charter". That may, and has, involved Ireland in recent years in peace-enforcing missions that are far more robust than traditional peacekeeping. It has also involved Irish troops in small numbers in the UN operation in Afghanistan. It has involved Ireland in what might be described as UN-mandated operations regionally subcontracted, under the aegis of NATO.
Clearly, Irish neutrality does not mean in principle eschewing the use of force, or assistance in its use, at the behest of the UN or in UN-sanctioned operations. Chapter 7 of the Charter, Article 43.1, requires that “All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security".
Dr. Horgan’s insistence that “it is clearly in breach of international law to allow a planeload of troops on the way to a military operation or on its way to war to pass through Shannon Airport or a neutral country” would appear in this light to make Ireland’s membership of the UN incompatible with its neutrality. That is not, I would suggest, his intention. What matters , however, is the nature of the military operation and its political and legal standing.
Arguably, Ireland’s UN commitment, this State’s central strategic security doctrine, makes its facilitation of Shannon’s use in UN-mandated operations not only compatible with its security doctrine but prima facieappears to require it, politically as well as legally, although the Charter does provide a case by case opt-out opportunity. The specific mandates with which we are concerned are for the United States, US, roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. The former is pretty straightforward, a unanimous resolution of the UN Security Council, 1368, and Ireland was a member at the time, was agreed in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001 and which concluded with the council expressing its readiness to take “all necessary steps” to respond to the attacks and combat all forms of terrorism in accordance with the Charter. In December 2001 the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorising a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan under Chapter 7 of the Charter. In late 2001, the Security Council authorised the US to overthrow the Taliban government.
Iraq is considerably more problematic. Ireland in November 2002 voted yes to Resolution 1441 which threatened "serious consequences" if Iraq did not comply with weapons inspectors. When the US insisted Iraq was in material breach of the resolution and the invasion went ahead in 2003, unsanctioned by the UN, Ireland refused to support it, although the Dáil agreed to a Government proposal that Shannon could be used by coalition planes.
The ambiguous UN mandate was later repudiated clearly by the then Secretary General, Kofi Annan, when he said, in 2004, regarding the invasion:
I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.
Permission to use Shannon for the Iraq operation seems, therefore, not to have been a UN-based imperative, although the Dáil vote certainly gave it a degree of democratic legitimacy. While facilitating both the Afghan-related and Iraq-related troop-transporting flights seems to be consistent politically and legally with the spirit both of our neutrality and our commitment to multilateral security through the UN, whatever we may think about the wisdom of both operations, the same cannot be said of facilitating rendition flights, if it happened. Rendition flights are clearly illegal in international law, and clear evidence of their existence must put an extra onus on Ireland routinely to inspect flights, however diplomatically embarrassing that may prove.
Dr. Karen Devine:
I thank the Chairman and members for the invitation to appear before the committee to discuss Ireland's neutrality and, in particular, the differences between the concepts of political neutrality and military neutrality. At the outset, I thank Dr. Edward Horgan, author of public petition No. P00072/12, and his peace activist colleagues, Dr. John Lannon and Ms Margaretta D'Arcy, for their work in bringing the attention of the Oireachtas to this vital aspect of Irish foreign policy.
By way of background, I hold a bachelor of arts degree in politics and Spanish from UCD, a masters of arts in European integration from the University of Limerick, a postgraduate diploma in statistics from the University of Dublin, Trinity College, and a PhD in political science from Trinity. I wrote my PhD dissertation on public opinion and Irish neutrality. I am a lecturer in international relations at Dublin City University, where I teach Irish foreign policy, European Union policy and politics, and international relations and political science theories and research methodologies at bachelor, master and doctoral levels. My scholarship on Irish foreign policy, neutrality in Europe and public opinion on foreign policy is published in the top-ranked Institute for Scientific Information journals in the world, including Cooperation and Conflict, which is ranked 21st in the world for international relations scholarship, and regularly features in those journals' most-read and most-cited indexes. Despite the fact that Ireland is seen as one small state among the 193 in the world and its neutrality is a foreign policy orientation that is not a focus of attention in the global foreign policy realm, I manage to publish on the subject of Irish foreign policy in the top 100 scholarly journals in the world because I use innovative theories such as critical constructivism, elite socialisation, Europeanisation and the rational public hypothesis to analyse our foreign policy. I enhance the relative importance of Irish foreign policy by drawing comparisons with other states' foreign policies.
I do not mean to bore members with these seemingly mundane details. I am saying all this to highlight that my work is double-blind peer reviewed by the best scholars in the world, frequently undergoes an additional round of special "hostile" peer review and is subject to a further final round of editorial review. That is to say, it has been interrogated in minute detail and found to have met the highest scholarly standards of quality and academic credibility. The rigour and veracity of my research on Irish foreign policy is also seen through my receipt of several prestigious national and international scholarships, including a Chevening scholarship, funding from the Irish Research Council and Fulbright awards. The scholarly work I will present today is different in many ways from that published by think tanks funded by the European Union or the Government for political purposes. I will return to this point at the end of my presentation.
I am honoured to address the question of the difference between political neutrality and military neutrality. As members can see, I have focused in my paper on three main themes. The first concerns the fact that there are two concepts of neutrality in the debate on and formulation of Irish foreign policy, namely, neutrality and military neutrality. However, only the first of these concepts exists in international law, has been practised by states over centuries and is recognised as a bona fide foreign policy norm. There are no adjectives or prefixes associated with the term; it is simply "neutrality".
The second point is that Irish people support the concept of neutrality, not the concept of "military neutrality". In a democracy, any Irish Government is obliged to implement this preferred neutrality policy in the international sphere as Irish foreign policy. The third point has to do with the domestic and European environment in which neutrality exists, which is dominated by EU-funded agents that are quite hostile to the truths about neutrality. The Irish people have a right to have full transparency in regard to the moneys received by those agents, which enable them to achieve dominance of anti-neutrality discourses in the media in Ireland.
I will now deal in more detail with the concept of military neutrality, a concept that does not exist in international law. It is not a recognised practice of states and is not considered a traditional foreign policy norm in the international system. "Military neutrality" is a term created by governments of neutral states which sought membership of the EEC-EU as a way to agree at the EU level to the progressive framing of a common defence policy leading to a collective EU defence and the eradication of neutrality while, at the same time, telling their electorates at home that the neutrality of the state is retained. The definition of the term has changed over time. For example, on 11 March 1981, as main Opposition finance spokesperson, Garret FitzGerald referred to it as meaning non-participation in a military alliance and not being a member of NATO, the Western European Union or any other alliance.
Various Ministers and leaders have proffered different definitions since then, reflecting the variation in responses to developments in EU security and defence policy ambitions. On 18 January 2003, the then Minister for Defence, Michael Smith, stated, "There is no such thing as, if you like, complete military neutrality." That same year, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, defined military neutrality as "non-membership of military alliance, and specifically, non-membership of an alliance with a mutual defence commitment". In 2004, then Government adviser, Martin Mansergh, stated that military neutrality is defined as non-membership of "pre-existing military alliances with mutual automatic obligations", and asserted that Ireland's foreign policy tradition is only "partly described as neutrality". The Irish Government, post-Lisbon treaty ratification, effectively redefined the concepts of "military neutrality" and "non-participation in military alliances" to mean, first, Irish membership of the WEU military alliance through the back door of a merger with the EU and, second, Ireland's assumption of the WEU's Article V mutual defence clause. In figure 1 of my paper, I have mapped the EU mutual defence clause and the changes in regard to that clause over time versus corresponding changes to the Government's concepts of military neutrality.
Scholars have concluded that the term "military non-alliance" has been defined in such a way as to have "close to no meaning at all". The decision to aid belligerents in war is against neutrality-based foreign policy and incompatible with Article 2 of the Fifth Hague Convention on the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land of October 1907. The Irish Government's decision to permit the transit of hundreds of thousands of US soldiers through Shannon Airport on their way to the Iraq war from 2003 onward violated the international law on neutrality and set this State apart from other European neutrals, which refused such permission. Mr. Cowen insisted at the time that "Irish neutrality is a policy choice and is not defined exclusively on the basis of international legal instruments such as the Hague Convention of 1907". Mr. Cowen maintained, moreover, that the Government had to "define neutrality in a very complex set of circumstances, the value of international friendships and the expectations that come with those friendships". He reiterated the new mantra that "neutrality policy has also been informed by the view that military neutrality on its own is not sufficient to maintain conditions of peace and security internationally."
I move now to the second point examined in my paper, which is to do with Irish public opinion and neutrality. The first point to make is that the Irish public does not define neutrality as non-membership of a military alliance. The assertion by Irish Government elites that their narrow definition of "military neutrality" is likewise held by the Irish public is wrong. That elite view is reflected in the claim by the then Minister for State, Tom Kitt, in 2003 that "the central and defining characteristic of Irish people in this area ... is our non-participation in military alliances". On the contrary, surveys conducted in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s show that an average of just 2.5% of Irish people define neutrality as staying out of NATO or non-membership of military alliances. The Irish public's concept of neutrality is clear-cut and broadly consistent over time, with the top three substantive elements being "not getting involved in war", "independence or staying independent" and "not taking sides in wars, that is, impartiality". Table 1 in my paper sets out the rank order of neutrality definitions offered by the Irish public and the percentage of people who adhere to the concept of military neutrality.
The public concept accords with neutrality in international law and the most strongly supported public concepts closely resemble the wider, “active” concept of neutrality that embodies characteristics such as peace promotion,non-aggression, the primacy of the UN, and the confinement of State military activity to UN peacekeeping, not being involved in wars, and maintaining Ireland’s independence, identity, and independent foreign policy decision-making, especially in the context of “big power” pressure. This is from the 2001-2002 Irish Social and Political Attitudes Survey, ISPAS. The results of 13 surveys from 1981 to 2013 show that Irish public attitudes towards neutrality are also consistent over time. Depending on the question wording and response options available, between roughly two in three and four in five people support neutrality and one in five rejects it. Table 2 in my paper shows these data in detail, grouped by question type. Contrary to the mistaken claims of academics, which are due to the misinterpretation of data, public concepts of neutrality are neither “inconsistent” nor “limited”.
Public opinion on neutrality is based on values of independence and patriotism. The results of a structural equation model analysing ISPAS data, shown in table 3 in my paper, indicate that the more an individual values Irish independence and the prouder an individual is to be Irish, the more that person favours the maintenance of Irish neutrality. The relationship between independence and patriotism is symbiotic. As historian Ronan Fanning surmises, “by the end of the Second World War neutrality had become what it largely remains in the popular mind until today: the hallmark of independence, a badge of patriotic honour inextricably linked with the popular perception of Irish national identity”. Table 3 shows the regression weights of a structural equation model showing the results of this.
Normative democratic theory supports the view that citizens are a wise source of foreign policy, preventing foreign policy designed solely in the interests of elites and even restraining leaders’ war-making proclivities. Gaps between the policy preferences of leaders and citizens are seen as problematic and reflecting different values and interests rather than levels of attention or information. Where public opinion is structured and informed, democratic theory calls for responsiveness by policy-makers. In other words, the Irish Government needs to heed public opinion on neutrality because it is coherent, consistent and based on important and relevant political values and identity.
The third part of my presentation concerns the domestic and international environment in which neutrality is discussed and defined. Irish public opinion on foreign policy is extremely politicised because treaties that extend the scope of the objectives of the European Community, EC, or European Union, EU, are subject to a ratification device of a binding referendum in Ireland. Opinion polls have shown that Irish neutrality is the top substantive policy reason given by Irish people who voted against the Single European Act and the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties in referendums. As the gap between the "yes" and "no" votes has narrowed in parallel with the expansion of EU foreign, security and defence policy, referendum campaigns in Ireland have become increasingly contentious and fraught because a ratification failure in one or more EU member states means the treaty in question cannot come into force.
In June 2008, the Irish people rejected the Lisbon treaty by a substantial margin of 53.4% against, 46.6% in favour, based on a healthy turnout of 53.1%, and another phase of European integration was brought to a grinding halt. Neutrality was the most divisive issue in the Lisbon treaty referendum campaign. Research showed that “strengthening neutrality” was a major driver of people’s decision to vote "no". Irish voters who rejected the Lisbon treaty to safeguard neutrality were correct because neutrality is incompatible with the European Union's defence provisions enacted through the Lisbon treaty. Table 4 in my paper compares the various elements of neutrality with the EU's common security and defence policy, CSDP. I will not go into detail on that, because it will be made available in the paper.
On the power structure of discourses on Irish and European neutrality, there is evident bias in the research and reporting of public attitudes to neutrality and other European security and defence options. Irish scholars have criticised the "sizeable body of feeling, innuendo and unargued comment in the writings of some politicians, journalists and historians who are clearly unhappy with Ireland’s ambiguous position". One of the many financial instruments at the disposal of the EU is its external relations budget for information programmes, amounting to €10.7 million in 2008. These moneys are expended on "the organisation of visits for groups of journalists” and “support for the information activities of opinion leaders that are consistent with the European Union’s priorities”. These journalist "opinion leaders" dominating the discourses on the EU and neutrality in Irish newspapers and broadcast media shows co-ordinate their positions with the EU's specially funded "academics", the so-called "Jean Monnet" lecturers.
Officially, Jean Monnet chairs are teaching posts with a specialisation in European integration studies. Unofficially, these posts, co-financed by the EU up to a level of 75%, are to encourage “associations of professors and researchers to communicate, teach and [I emphasise] promote European Integration Process”. The public are largely unaware of the extent to which the seemingly objective academics dominating the media discourses in Ireland are, in fact, on the EU's payroll and tasked with promoting the EU's CSDP and concomitant hostile discourses on neutrality. Such agents also dominate board positions in bona fide academic institutions such as the Royal Irish Academy, RIA.
These EU-sponsored journalists and so-called Jean Monnet academics also benefit from further financial resources through EU-funded think tanks such as the Institute of International and European Affairs in Ireland. I am given to understand the European Commission also finances the State broadcaster's European correspondent position based in Brussels. The list goes on. Suffice to say that the truly academic and objective voices on neutrality and EU CSDP are rarely heard and actively suppressed by these agents. The media have a responsibility to ask contributors to declare their affiliations with the EU and the amount of funding they have received over the years for their work on behalf of the EU.
In this final section of my presentation, I highlight some portraits of public preferences that are clearly coloured by the political and policy preferences of the authors who are part of the EU-funded elite. Examples include the omission of key public preferences in the realm of foreign policy from Eurobarometer surveys, and inaccurate reporting of Eurobarometer-type questions by academics in the media. Rabin argues that
... the Eurobarometer has truly become an instrument of governance, as they say nowadays ... it is a tool that, I believe, researchers trust ... The Eurobarometer has now become a tool that we can describe as practical, indispensable and incontestable.
Eurobarometer can only be considered a tool of governance if it does indeed capture the true policy preferences and foreign policy concepts of the publics in the EU. Does it? In a review of EC polling from 1962 to 1982, I found evidence that the balance between the Eurobarometer functions of evaluating public opinion and acting as a tool of politics is skewed towards the latter, evinced through the generalisation of claims as to the truth of "European" peoples’ preferences based on the omission of several cases of populations, in particular Ireland, and the universalisation of claims to knowledge of public foreign policy preferences based on a seemingly politically motivated omission of evinced preferences from the list of options presented to respondents. For example, Richard Eichenberg claims that “the 'neutralist option', so enthusiastically researched by the pollsters, never exceeded 20% in any country” but it is clear from the data I present in table 5 that neutrality was favoured by a majority of 31% in France, sizeable minorities of 29% each in Italy and Belgium, and in figures that greatly exceeded 20%. Anton DePorte volunteered that “reports of neutralism and pacificism in European public opinion” were of concern to elites that feared that “the domestic base of support for the Alliance had been eroded”. Unsurprisingly, given EC's horror at the support for neutrality among NATO member state populations, the neutrality response option was dropped from the questionnaire wording in Eurobarometer surveys conducted after 1979.
Another classic case drawn from media discourse in Ireland involves a pseudo-academic analysis of an Irish Timespoll carried out by TNS-MRBI in an article entitled "Poll Reveals a Canny Electorate". The author of the piece, a Jean Monnet, stated that “68 percent of us are quite happy for Ireland to join some form of a common European defence”. In fact, the question asked people to consider the statement, “Ireland should consider joining a future European Union common defence”.
The question definitively did not ask people whether they would have Ireland join a European Union common defence. Instead the respondents of the survey were asked to consider a statement about considering this idea and 68% replied that they would be okay if Ireland considered such a hypothetical scenario.
These EU agents define neutrality in purely negative terms, that is, "notions of pacifism and isolationism", or deny the content of the concept altogether and demand the erasure of neutrality from all discourses, for example, "Neutrality is not a foreign policy and does not even give content or orientation to a foreign policy ... There is no correlation between a position of military neutrality and the content and substance of a foreign policy" and "the content of Irish foreign policy has nothing whatsoever to do with neutrality". Thus "we must, as individuals, stop using the word 'neutrality', which has nothing to do with our foreign policy". These agents could not be more wrong. Despite the EU demands for its removal and the fact that political parties have placed neutrality in a zone of meaningful silence in political discourse, from Wolfe Tone's clearly stated manifesto for Irish neutrality in 1790 up to the present day, the Irish people have consistently advocated a legally correct and normatively vital concept of neutrality and associated it with signifiers of independence, self-determination, global cosmopolitanism, anti-colonisation and anti-imperialism.
I suspect that the names of the three petitioners lobbying the committee today will be added to the list of those luminaries known for advocating the same approach to Irish international relations, following, as they do, in the wake of Daniel O'Connell, Seán Lester, Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly, Frank Aiken and Eamon de Valera. The Irish and Iraqi people owe them a debt of gratitude.
Thank you. I will call Deputy Boyd Barrett first as he must leave to deliver a speech in the Chamber in approximately 15 minutes. I will ask every member to ask three questions, and one at a time. It will facilitate a good discourse.
I apologise for having to rush to the Chamber, but I must speak in the debate on the North. I thank the two contributors for their extremely interesting presentations.
First, I overwhelmingly subscribe to what Dr. Devine said regarding the people's understanding of neutrality. Let us be clear - the people's understanding is that we do not get involved in wars and we do not wish to be involved in military alliances. That is not from a parochial basis but from the opposite basis. It is from the basis of being good internationalists who wish to side with people who may be subject to the bullying of big powers. That is really the people's understanding of neutrality and why, for example, the facilitation of the war in Iraq flies in the face of the notion the people of this country have of neutrality. That was clearly demonstrated in opinion polls that were carried out on the matter by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, PANA, and in the massive mobilisations against that war. One of the major reasons that people voted against the various EU treaties was precisely on this basis.
Dr. Devine agrees on that but what does Mr. Smyth think about it? If we wish to have a notion of neutrality that is in line with the opinions of the people, is that not the opinion of the people in the first place? Linked to that, is the refusal of the Government to define neutrality due to the fact that it knows that is what the people believe neutrality to be and it does not want it pinned down because it knows what the answer is?
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
The problem is that what the public sense is neutrality is a very complicated issue. I have a sense that, in some ways, as part of the political culture of the State, it is like being against sin. It is a good thing and we have always been like that. Therefore, it is necessary to dig into that to see what it means in practice. That is why I placed much emphasis in my contribution on the positive security doctrine of the State, which is to see that international conflict would be resolved through the UN. That necessarily means, perhaps, getting involved in wars, which necessarily involves the use of military force, and an automatic commitment by us to support and assist UN-mandated operations, regardless of whether we like them. I believe our public understanding of neutrality is more sophisticated than just saying that we want to be on the side of the good guys and that we are anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist. It involves an understanding of, and pride in, our UN commitment. There is a slight contradiction then in terms of what their attitude is to the use of military force, because they recognise and support-----
If I can intervene on that point, Mr. Smyth appears to be saying that the people have a type of legalistic, narrow, UN-related notion of neutrality. Does he honestly believe that is the case?
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
Our attitude to international peace is multifaceted. It involves neutrality on the one hand and it involves a strong commitment to the UN and its role in maintaining the peace. There was a reference in one phrase to neutralism and pacifism. I believe there is a confusion. Certain sections of the Irish neutrality lobby definitely try to associate neutralism with military pacifism, but that is not our foreign policy position.
To get back to how the Government defines it, the Government has a precise definition of military neutrality. It is non-involvement in Article 5 type commitments. Anything going towards that, such as involvement in the EU's increasing role as a military alliance, is acceptable in terms of the Government's definition. The point I was making is that there does not appear to be any inconsistency there.
In terms of defining political neutrality, Governments over time have said that Ireland has never been politically neutral. We did not join the Non-Aligned Movement, for example, when that was a big deal in the 1960s. Like it or not, and I do not necessarily like it, we sided politically with the West against the Soviet Union over the years. We are politically sympathetic to the values of western democracy. One cannot apply the term "neutral" in that context.
Mr. Smyth is describing realpolitik, and that is fine as a description. However, is that type of pragmatic, political, somewhat à la carteview of neutrality which the political elites in this country have, particularly when it came to the Iraq war, in line with the sentiment of the people on these matters? I do not believe it is. The people are much more consistent and, frankly, more principled in their understanding of neutrality. In so far as they are, the people's view of neutrality accords better with a meaningful definition of neutrality as set out in, for example, the Hague Convention.
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
It is difficult to pin that down. I would ask the Deputy about his appreciation of the people's attitude to the Afghan war, for example. It seems to me that in terms of legitimacy internationally, the Afghan war was quite clear-cut.
I was reporting in America after 9/11 and there was no significant force in America arguing against the intervention in Afghanistan. There was unanimity in the Security Council, and in Ireland there was no serious objection to sending forces, including Irish forces, to Afghanistan. If one compares that with Iraq, one will find a significant difference in public attitudes, but it does not take away from the fundamental point about the nature of attitudes to neutrality.
I thank the witnesses for their comprehensive views and papers. I was looking at the definition of neutrality at one stage and I know that it depends on one's political view. In essence, however, it is not supporting or helping either side in a conflict or disagreement. It also means a state not offering a preferred view on that conflict. I would imagine that would be a concise and reasonable definition of neutrality. I recall speaking some months ago at a meeting of either this committee or the Joint Committee on European Affairs, and I aligned it with what is happening in Shannon. For instance, if two states are at war and one of their planes with armed troops lands at a third state to refuel before attacking the other state, the third state is in essence helping one side in that conflict. We appear to have helped America, which has been complicit in the violation of human rights and proven torture, with the hundreds of thousands of troops that have landed in Shannon and then flown on to Iraq and Afghanistan. To me, it is a decisive breach of neutrality. I would like to have the witnesses' views on that.
There are obviously different viewpoints on our committee which break along Government and Opposition lines. Unfortunately, our Government members have had to attend a meeting. We have two different perspectives from our witnesses, so unfortunately Mr. Smyth has to field the Opposition's concerns mostly here today.
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
I am not neutral nor has this State been neutral. Deputy Halligan's definition of neutrality begs the central question I have tried to raise in my paper, that is, when one is not talking about a conventional war but about an operation which is mandated by the UN Security Council, to talk about being neutral between the UN and the Afghans does not make sense because that is not what this is about. This is about how the international community tries to regulate security on an international level. I completely accept Deputy Boyd Barrett's arguments about Iraq, that there are considerable complexities in that issue. It is not as simple as having a UN mandate.
To answer Deputy Halligan's question about what neutrality means, that it is not taking a side in a war, what is going on in Afghanistan? Is it a war? What is going on in other operations where we have been involved in peace enforcing, which is taking one side and policing a situation on behalf of the international community very robustly? At the moment, our troops in Golan are engaged in peace enforcing missions which involve taking a decided position against ISIS-linked forces in Golan who are threatening our troops and those of other UN countries.
My second question leads to the first one I asked. There are so many definitions of neutrality under international law that it becomes irrelevant in the sense that a country defines its own neutrality by how the people choose. As Deputy Boyd Barrett has said, there was overwhelming opposition to the Iraq war, yet we are complicit in assisting one country to bomb parts of Iraq, or send troops and weapons there.
I think Dr. Devine said either that neutrality cannot be defined under international law or that it is not accepted. I do not know but I would imagine that neutrality is self-defined within the nation that wants to become neutral and not take part in a conflict.
I want to come back to Mr. Smyth. There is an absolute difference between a peace initiative and taking part in preventing conflict, and taking part in a conflict or helping that conflict by supplying weapons or rhetoric. The Irish people are quite clear if they decide, believe and agree with Irish troops being sent as peacekeepers to some area where the confrontation may have stopped for a period. They are there to see that it does not recur.
All of this essentially comes back to how we participate, and have participated, in helping the Americans both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regardless of whether we like it, it is inconceivable to think that many troops that flew from Ireland to Afghanistan and Iraq have not taken part in some sort of war effort, either by firing their weapons or bombing.
It comes back to my point about two countries at war with one in the middle. If one of the ones at war asks to fly into the country in the middle because it wants to bomb the other country, that country is not neutral if it allows that. That is my opinion and the opinion of many hundreds of thousands of people.
May I finish by saying this? I will be brief. We have to be very careful when Dáil Éireann votes on something that it is the democratic view of the Irish people. It is the democratic view of the Irish people to elect those who make the call in Dáil Éireann. One can say that 56% of people do not want to pay their water rates, yet those charges have been introduced. I would imagine that if one took an opinion poll - perhaps Mr. Smyth has done so - the vast majority of Irish people would probably still have no truck with anything to do with Iraq.
I have spoken at meetings throughout the country, including my own constituency, and have met support groups in Shannon. People may not use the word "complicit" in helping the Americans, but they certainly do not see it as any form of neutrality that we allow all these troops and arms to pass through Shannon. In 2013, a Hercules aircraft armed with cannons, was photographed there. It was flying out to Iraq or Afghanistan, so we are anything but neutral in that sense.
I will pick up on the particular question concerning the Iraq mandate for the use of Shannon that was passed by Dáil Éireann. There was a vote by the Dáil that allowed the planes to stop over, but within the international legal framework, was that not a breach of our neutrality?
I accept that the Dáil and Seanad can vote on something but did that not negate our contention that we are neutral within the international legal framework?
Dr. Karen Devine:
I am just Karen. I agree that refuelling planes and the transit of US troops through Shannon on their way to a theatre of war does breach the international law of neutrality. It means we are not neutral. When the Government agreed to do that, it broke the law on neutrality. Given that neutrality is not in the Irish Constitution, there is nothing anyone can do about that. It is a government decision. Dr. Horgan did take a case against the State for these actions, claiming it was a breach of international law. The judge agreed that it was a breach of the customary international law on neutrality but, because it is not in the Constitution, as a judge his hands were tied. Dr. Horgan was right. Allowing the transit of troops is specifically prohibited in the Hague Convention of 1907, the international law on neutrality.
It is important to differentiate. There is a lot of talk about the United Nations and Ireland's participation in it. Transit of troops through Shannon has nothing to do with a United Nations mandate. It is a bilateral agreement between the Irish and US Governments. Talking about the UN is a red herring in that respect. The UN does not force states to provide troops or get involved in wars. The point of the UN is to regulate the use of force. The UN does not mandate a war; it mandates a response to a threat of war or a war that has broken out.
Mr. Smyth is right in saying that Ireland is moving towards participation in peace enforcement missions, which are very distinct from peacekeeping missions. Peacekeeping is when we are asked by parties who are in conflict to come in and maintain a truce. The parties involved in the conflict want our presence to keep the peace so that negotiations can continue and the conflict can be resolved. There are very important, though subtle, differences between this and peace enforcement.
One could say that the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, to which Ireland contributes about five troops, is basically a way for the Government to fly the flag. Once one member of the Defence Forces is involved in an operation, our flag gets hoisted and we are considered to be present in that mission. The ISAF peace enforcement mission in Afghanistan does not involve Irish soldiers in actual peace enforcement activities. Irish soldiers are carrying out bomb disposal there. There is also an administrative individual in the operation's headquarters. Ireland has never been involved in actual peace enforcement in practice. That is a distinction that should be made.
I may have gotten it wrong or been unclear in terms of what Deputy Halligan picked up from what I was saying. As a scholar who has been studying neutrality for 20 years, to me, what neutrality means is very clear cut. It means not participating in wars, maintaining independence so as to be able to resist any great power pressure to get involved in wars, and being impartial in respect of the sides involved in a war. This is an established norm in international law. The Irish public's concept of neutrality correlates very well with this international legal concept and its associated rights, duties and obligations. The Irish people clearly did not want the Government to sanction the transit of troops through Shannon. In that respect, neutrality is a way for the people to try to limit the behaviour of the Government. I hope that answers the Deputies' questions.
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
The operation in Afghanistan is a mission that involves peace enforcement although Ireland was not specifically involved in that aspect. It is somewhat academic.
Dr. Devine has a point that the decision by the Dáil to support the illegal operation in Iraq was a violation of Irish neutrality. Whatever about the legal definition, the concept of Irish neutrality was violated. However, the Dáil has a right to do that. It is the voice of the people, whether one thinks it is imperfect or otherwise. That is a reality. It is also a reality that our foreign policy, like that of every state in the world, is not necessarily consistent or entirely coherent. I think our attitude to neutrality is a bit incoherent.
Dr. Karen Devine:
I apologise, I did not mean to interrupt Mr. Smyth. I would like to reiterate that I did say Ireland has been involved in peace enforcement missions. There is a distinction between Irish troops being part of a mission which is labelled peace enforcement, and Irish troops actually engaging in peace enforcement activities, which they have not done.
Dr. Karen Devine:
I think we would need to define what peace enforcement activities are. In Chad, the Irish troops were patrolling the areas around refugee camps to ensure that rebels did not try to attack the aid workers or the refugees. It was not necessarily the case that they were involved in what would be - there are degrees of military intensity, if I may put it that way. There is a low degree of military intensity and a high degree of military intensity. The high degree was not present in those missions and that is the distinction. It is definitely not academic. It is actually quite vital and central to understanding----
I think it is very important to make that distinction about the Dáil resolution around Iraq being within a legal framework. It was not illegal to make the resolution. However, the Government is then speaking out of both sides of its mouth, saying that we are neutral but also saying we are sanctioning something within a legal framework, which people would not see as being neutral.
An issue which we have not really touched on, which Mr. Smyth mentioned, is the matter of rendition flights. Mr. Smyth said that he does not believe the same can be said of facilitating rendition flights if that has been done. We should consider the role of a neutral country, particularly in a space like Shannon, in the policing of planes coming through. It was clear from the Ministers who spoke to us that there is an understanding or gentlemen's agreement between ourselves and the US. If they tell us everything is hunky dory and there is no rendition happening on a plane, we do not touch the plane or check it out. The Garda was clear that it cannot go anywhere near a plane unless it gets sanction from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to do so.
How consistent is that policy of taking the Americans' word for it with other neutral countries whose position of neutrality is enshrined in their legal frameworks? Is there an argument that a fully neutral state should police the likes of the planes coming through Shannon to ensure that everything is as it should be? Should we just take the word of our US counterparts that it is not happening? How do we fit in internationally in this respect?
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
It has nothing to do with neutrality. It has got to do with the rule of law, and the obligation is on all states when there is clear evidence that rendition has been taking place. That the American authorities, and other countries, were involved in illegal renditions changes the onus on a state through which planes are passing, and it seems to me there is then an assumption that they should presume that searches will happen. It is fair to say that we trust these people because they have never lied to us before, but it is clear these people have been lying internationally, and that is the issue. It is about the rule of law, not neutrality.
Dr. Karen Devine:
It is an interesting question. I agree with Mr. Smyth in that it is certainly not in the Hague conventions. Rendition was not a concept that existed in the early 1900s. However, the question must be asked whether rendition is part of the war effort or something that just happens because individuals in a government do not like particular individuals or that they discriminate against or are racist towards particular individuals, and that they are violating their human rights.
Mr. Smyth is right. Rendition violates a number of international laws in terms of the rights of individuals. George Bush was explicit in saying that the use of what effectively amounted to torture until just before organ failure was the basis of the methods they were using in Guantanamo as part of the war on terrorism. If it is argued that those individuals are being renditioned because it is part of the war on terrorism, as such, and part of the illegal war against Iraq, then it could be considered that there is an obligation to ensure that a country is not aiding that particular aspect of the war effort, if it is considered part of the war effort.
It is very rare that war is declared in the modern world. Very few people declare that they are going to war against state X or Y. George Bush's war was a war on terrorism, so it was a war on a concept. It was not a war against specific states, even though he invaded the states of Iraq and Afghanistan.
For me, neutrality is an inter-state type of concept that exists in international law. However, it is also a normative concept and there are moral considerations involved in states that do not want to get involved in war. It is not just about survival. It is primarily about security and survival, which is what Irish neutrality was about during the Second World War, but it has become increasingly informed by a normative dimension because of the development of arms and technology. The military power of certain super states in the international system has meant that it is difficult for ordinary, non-super states to be able to resist some of the war making proclivities of the larger powers in the system. If it is the case that Ireland is considered a neutral state and that there is a normative dimension to that, Ireland would have an obligation to search those planes to make sure that rendition is not happening, if it is considered part of the war effort. We should bear in mind that George Bush declared war in Iraq in March 2003 and declared the war had ended in May 2003, but it continued for at least ten years after that. The official declaration of war is one aspect but what we consider warfare, in terms of the killing of civilians and soldiers, is another.
In other states internationally which declared themselves neutral, does Mr. Smyth find anything like the Shannon stopover? Does he find US planes carrying military personnel stopping over in those states?
To return to the point about the rendition flights, there are international organisations that have said they can trace planes that have travelled through Shannon and people who have ended up being water boarded in Guantanamo. They say there is enough circumstantial evidence to argue that some of the planes coming through Shannon should be stopped and checked. I am trying to put Ireland on a league table internationally of other countries which would have a high standing as being neutral. Would they consider a Shannon stopover a breach of their neutrality or not?
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
I cannot think of a direct comparison with Shannon in the sense that I cannot think of any other base that has been used in the particular wars we are talking about. However, in the context of the European Union, the Partnership for Peace, PfP, programme involves close co-operation between the military forces of the neutrals - Austria, Sweden and Finland - and NATO forces. In that context, NATO planes would visit the PfP countries and would use the facilities, not to specifically transport military personnel. Nevertheless, they would be the planes of a military alliance.
Dr. Karen Devine:
There is no comparator in regard to the facilitation of the transit of troops through a neutral state. As I said in my presentation, other neutral European states had specifically denied this permission and denied the use of their air space to the US military en route to theatres of war in Iraq.
Dr. Karen Devine:
Exactly. They would have been prohibited and that is what a neutral state is supposed to do. The Government has been disingenuous in two aspects. First, once the war broke out in 2003, when the US invaded Iraq, the Government kept referring to the fact that it had always allowed US planes to refuel at Shannon. It did not distinguish between the fact that there was a war going on and it was allowing planes to assist a war effort by facilitating these landings, whereas previously there was not a war going on, and the law on neutrality comes into effect once war is declared. That is one aspect about which the Government was disingenuous. The second aspect has slipped my mind.
If it comes back we will revisit it but I have a few questions. In terms of setting the scene, and the exchange so far has been excellent, I read former Senator Maurice Hayes's forward to the transcript of the conference held over six years ago. We were looking at Sean McCrum, who had tried to frame some questions, but looking at them now, Dr. Devine is very clear about the framework of neutrality as it is internationally understood, and that what Ireland has done by facilitating the flights in Shannon is not in line with the international definition of neutrality. Mr. Smyth's perspective is that it is a more fluid concept than that defined in international law. I will not go into that because both witnesses have given their perspectives but should we have a referendum on enshrining neutrality in the Constitution? The case was taken by the petitioner, Dr. Horgan, but it could not be successful because there is not a clear legal definition in this State that represents what has been the stated political imperative for decades. What is the opinion of the witnesses? Would it be helpful to have a clear legal definition of neutrality to clear up the confusion? Should we just leave it to the interpretation by a government in a given period or do we put it to the people and allow them decide?
Dr. Karen Devine:
I repeat that there is a very clear legal concept of neutrality. States do not get to make up what they think neutrality is. It is a legal concept that is enshrined in the Hague Convention. The manner in which states have actually put it into practice has generally accorded with these international laws. If the behaviour of a state did not accord with international law, the concept would lose its significance and there would be no point in having an international law on neutrality. International laws are in place to regulate the behaviour of states and set expectations regarding their behaviour, particularly in matters of war and peace that are so vital.
The question of whether neutrality should be enshrined in the Constitution is an interesting one. I wrote a paper published in Irish Political Studies, which was published in 2009. I have e-mailed six or seven of my articles to the members of the joint committee. In my 2009 article I looked at the positions of Irish political parties on neutrality and European Security and Defence Policy in successive decades from the 1960s through to the 2000s. One of the things that struck me was how the political parties had moved across a matrix from being in favour of and supporting active neutrality - the legal concept of neutrality and the normative values about what I have spoken - towards a maximalist EU defence policy involving signing up to the mutual defence clause, which is what we did when we ratified the Lisbon treaty. Interestingly, I found that as the decades progressed, the Labour Party which had stated neutrality should be enshrined in the Constitution and made a number of interventions in the Houses of the Oireachtas to propose a Bill to that end had joined Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in leaving real, active or positive neutrality aside and moving to the minimalist concept of not being a member of a military alliance. The Labour Party knew that it would eventually agree to maximalist EU defence. The mantle then transferred from the Labour Party to the Green Party. In the 1990s the Green Party stated we should have neutrality enshrined in the Constitution. When it formed a coalition with Fianna Fáil, it changed its stance on neutrality and went the way of the Labour Party. I concluded that in the 2000s Sinn Féin had adopted the idea of including neutrality in the Constitution. It is interesting how the idea of including it in the Constitution has been transferred over the decades through the political parties.
The Government is not in favour of holding a referendum on this issue because it would then be constrained by international law on neutrality. In other words, if neutrality were to be enshrined in the Constitution, Edward Horgan would have won his case because the judge would have found that the Government had violated the constitutional provisions on neutrality. As I have said, neutrality is clearly defined in the Hague Conventions. It is a legal concept. There is no fuzziness about what it requires. There is a debate around it because many of the political parties - certainly, the mainstream political parties and the parties of the right - want all member states of the European Union to eventually become member states of NATO, to be involved in collective defence arrangements and to sign up to mutual defence clauses. That is why it is claimed that the concept of neutrality is somehow fuzzy. As I have argued, it is not. Saying it is fuzzy is a political device or strategy used by the Government to continue to do what it wants to do. In the case we are discussing it wants to facilitate US warplanes landing at Shannon Airport en route to a theatre of war.
Dr. Karen Devine:
I said it is interesting. As an academic, in a way I am bizarrely detached from the concept of neutrality. I do not tend to give my personal opinions on it. People think I have personal opinions because I am really devoted to the academic truth. I find that 99% of what is said about neutrality is simply not true. That enrages me and people start to think I must be really pro-neutrality. It is just a case of having an academic interest in the matter. I am concerned with the truth.
She is very clear that our actions in the past 15 years are not in line with it. That is her perspective. The question of whether the people wish to include it in the Constitution in order that it would be more clearly defined from a political perspective is one for them. I understand Dr. Devine's point.
Dr. Karen Devine:
I would love a referendum to be held because it would give me great research material. It should happen from the point of view of democracy because it is very clear that four out of five Irish people support neutrality and would probably, therefore, be in favour of including it in the Constitution. It would also create severe problems for the Government because we have signed up to the mutual defence clause in Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union. This should not be confused with Article 222 of a completely different treaty - the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - which contains a solidarity clause. They are two completely different things. It is a Government discursive strategy to confuse and conflate the two in order that it can state it has not signed up to a collective defence commitment.
The difficulty is that on many occasions opinion polls have been proved not to pan out when the people vote on referendum day. What people express in an opinion poll will not necessarily represent the final outcome. The only true way to assess the people's will on a given matter, in terms of primary legislation, is to give them an opportunity to vote in a referendum. All we can do is say this was the view of the people at a given moment. Dr. Devine mentioned in her presentation that the last time a poll had been conducted on the issue was in 2013 - as I recall, it was conducted by Red C - before which there was a ten-year gap.
It is now two years since we had a poll. It could be argued that the view of the people right now may not be in favour. The truth is that Dr. Devine's presentation shows that this has consistently been the view of the people when they have been polled over a period of 15, 16 or 17 years. That does not, unfortunately, make it the law.
Dr. Karen Devine:
Three decades have passed since polling on this issue started in Ireland. I would like to make a quick point. The Chairman is right when he says a survey was available from 2003 and that the latest one dates from 2013. Surveys have been conducted, but the data are not being made public.
Dr. Karen Devine:
The authorities in other neutral or formerly neutral states such as Sweden have deliberately changed the question wording in their surveys. They no longer ask Swedish people whether they want to retain the concept of neutrality, or if they are in favour of it. They simply ask them whether they want to join a military alliance. As I have said, military neutrality has nothing whatsoever to do with real neutrality.
Mr. Patrick Smyth:
I will make two or three very brief points. I have to respond to the point made by Dr. Devine on the idea that we have already signed up to the Article 5 commitments. The Lisbon and Nice treaties both refer specifically to respecting Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. Article 29.4.9° of the Constitution specifically states the State will not sign up to a common defence policy. It is very clear to me that we do not regard ourselves as committed to a common defence policy. The overall treaty certainly contains clauses on a defence union, but we are clearly exempt from these clauses by virtue of the Constitution and the wording of the treaties I have mentioned.
The point has been made that the Hague Convention refers to neutrality in times of war. We need an operational definition of times of peace, but this is much more complicated. Although I believe in neutrality in the sense that we should not join any military alliance, I do not believe holding a referendum would be a good idea. We have had bad experience with referendums. I do not believe they are the best way of ascertaining the people's will or inserting something into the Constitution. We end up amending amendments and amendments to amendments. We are now discussing amending the article on abortion.
I want to return to the grey area between peacekeeping and peace enforcement and the difference between the two, which seems to be an issue across the world. If Irish soldiers are protecting a refugee camp and it is attacked, should they open fire, essentially taking military action against the country? Although in nine out of ten situations it is peacekeeping rather than peace enforcement, there is a grey area in which it is unclear whether we would be breaching our neutrality.
Does Dr. Devine think the difficulty with enshrining anything in the Constitution regarding neutrality is not that it would be constrained by EU laws but by international events? There is a view that Ireland should not have stayed neutral during the Second World War. Does she think the view is that we have a right to remain neutral in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? It appears to be the Government's view and that of countries that have not enshrined their neutrality in law that we cannot foretell what will happen internationally and that there could be some horrific case which the people of the country might say they cannot tolerate and must deal with such as the Second World War. Perhaps we need to concentrate on it. I would value Dr. Devine's view.
The United States was technically at war with the Government of Afghanistan which it had accused of orchestrating terrorist acts against it. Does Dr. Devine agree that we are in breach of neutrality if we take an Afghan citizen and fly him into Ireland on his way to America? We have taken an alleged combatant on an American aircraft that landed at Shannon Airport on the way to America or Guantanamo Bay.
Both delegates have already responded to the issue in the affirmative. I will ask them to deal with the first question on whether a referendum would tie our hands and be an inflexible response to the issue.
Dr. Karen Devine:
I return to what Mr. Smyth said. While clearly we disagree, the weight of international legal and academic opinion is on my side. In 2011 I published a paper in a journal entitled, Cooperation and Conflict, in which I recounted in minute detail how Ireland had acceded to the Western European Union, WEU, military alliances Article 5 guarantee because the European Union had decided it wanted to subsume and absorb the WEU military alliance from approximately the 1950s. When we reached the stage of the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union which allowed for an eventual common defence, it was going to be based on absorbing the WEU into the European Union. The merger was due to happen and there is documentation that shows it.
In December 1999 in Helsinki a European Council meeting was held which authorised the merger. The merger was completed once the Article 5 guarantee was inserted into an EU treaty. At the time it was being inserted into the constitution which was being drafted from 2002 to 2004 the Irish Government tried to stop the Article 5 guarantee being cut and pasted wholesale into the constitution which became the Lisbon treaty which amended the two previous treaties, the Treaty on European Union and the EC treaties. Brian Cowen, in a letter to Franco Frattini, Vice President of the European Union at the time, said we could not agree to it. Germany and France had previously tried to have it inserted into the Amsterdam treaty and were foiled because Britain was not in favour. However, by 2002, it was in favour and the three big powers got in a room and discussed what they were going to do about letters from Brian Cowen and the Foreign Ministers of the other neutral states, namely, Austria, Finland and Sweden. The big three powers said the move had always been in the plans and was the completion of the European common defence policy and that they would not allow any dilution of it.
The Article 5 guarantee was transplanted in wholesale. We have signed and ratified the treaty and are obliged under it to provide aid and assistance by all means in our power. The words "military and other" were deleted in order to demilitarise the clause. The line is that we are not obliged, given that there is a further statement in the treaty clause that it does not prejudice the "specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member states". However, the treaty goes on to talk about how NATO member states' desire for NATO primacy is protected, but it does not refer to neutral states. If it were supposed to protect neutral states and neutrality, it would have. The Constitution has no prohibition that protects neutrality and does not mention neutrality. The Seville Declaration, a political statement, states military neutrality is not affected. As I outlined in my presentation, "military neutrality" is whatever the Government decides it means on any given morning. While it used to mean non-membership of a military alliance, now it effectively means membership of a military alliance. It has no legal standing and is just a political and discursive device invented by governments. It does not apply in international relations as a foreign policy phenomenon and Mr. Smyth and I disagree on it.
We should hold a referendum on including neutrality in the Constitution, given that it has been part of so many political parties' agendas and the fact that the Government is violating the law on neutrality through the facilitation of US troops through Shannon Airport on the way to a theatre of war. It would help us to get a better understanding of what neutrality means to the people. As an academic, I can see very clearly through successive opinion polls what it means to them. While there is no question about it, a referendum might help to clarify it. Generally, the Government will not be in favour of it and I do not think it will happen. I can speculate that if Sinn Féin got into government, perhaps it might happen. We will see.
The Chairman has said we have already covered the question of the grey area between peace enforcement and peacekeeping.
I will not allow this. In fairness, Dr. Devine put it extensively in her presentation and Mr. Smyth has responded. That is enough for now.
I cannot thank both witnesses enough. It was a vigorous and balanced debate because we wanted to have two different perspectives on the subject. It was thought-provoking and helpful to the committee's deliberations. I thank them for coming here, giving so much of their time and the amount of preparation and thought they put into their presentations. It was immensely helpful.