In 1939, Europe fractured as World War 2 broke out. Yet the newly formed Irish Free State declared its neutrality to distinguish itself from the Allied United Kingdom, much to the frustration of the Allies. Despite this, Ireland remained rigid and along with Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Portugal remained neutral through the entirety of the war.
Ireland has held onto this neutrality since the 40’s and declared neutrality during the Cold War. However, it has been compromised slowly by many factors. Irish neutrality has been called out many times as we allow the US government to use Shannon Airport for their military aircraft stopovers. When Ireland joined the EU in 1973 this weakened the effectiveness of our neutrality as we were now aligned with a major international organisation. However Ireland did refuse to join NATO and remains one of the only European countries to not be a member of the military defence group. Despite this, it is well known that Ireland will most definitely align itself with the United States and Europe (i.e. the West) should it be forced to pick a side due to the deep cultural and historical links between them.
But the question remains; how much longer can Ireland just sit back and remain uninvolved? With the recent attacks in Paris that left over 100 dead, Europe is in the midst of a major security crisis and is preparing a major offensive on ISIS. Led by France, the UK and Germany look set to get involved which could led the European Union as a whole to move towards war with ISIS. And this conflict is not limited to Europe, the United States has long been fighting ISIS and now China has declared war. The conflict is quickly becoming a global issue and Ireland will find it hard to just remain outside it. But why should we try to stay out?
This issue is just as much Ireland’s as it France’s or Europe’s or the world’s. ISIS has already declared war on 60 nations that oppose it and Ireland is included. We are a clear target for ISIS simply for our culture and lifestyle but also for those we affiliate with. We are, whether we like it or not, affiliated with the Western world something years of neutrality failed to water down. Ireland is an exception among neutral states as it does not bolster a large military for defensive purposes. In this regard, Ireland’s neutrality is very weak and we rely solely on enemies choosing to respect our unalignment. ISIL has already proved it has no respect for its enemies and thus we are vulnerable, neutrality or not. At this point the threat is not immediate but in the long-term it may necessary for Ireland to forge closer ties to Europe. It is clear that we as a nation are a tad unprepared for a war in any form and thus we may soon need the protection of a group of allies. Now helping Europe fight terrorism would not be a dramatic change for Ireland as it already has experience co-operating with the UK during the Troubles, which required massive teamwork between the two nations. By no means should Ireland rush into conflict if it chooses to get involved but instead slowly merge into the larger operation, provide aid and any help it can give. Not all wars are fought with guns. In a perfect world there would be no conflict or death but in the real world, looking after yourself is just as important as peace.