16 June 2022, The Tablet

An examination of conscience


While modern Ireland has cast aside many of the founding tenets of the Republic, including its claims to “national territory” in the north and the “special position” of the Catholic Church, it
still cherishes its neutrality. The policy of avoiding military commitments, established by Éamon de Valera’s governments of the 1930s and 1940s, is popular with the liberal young Irish. The former paramilitaries of Sinn Féin treat the country’s neutral status as sacrosanct.

Irish neutrality in the Second World War was itself an ad hoc exercise in realpolitik, originating in anti-British sentiment over the partition of Northern Ireland and the government’s doubts about embarking on a war in Europe – doubts shared initially by the United States. This may have produced some ugly embarrassments, such as de Valera’s condolences on Hitler’s suicide; yet these awkward realities ultimately cohered with a moral opposition to military alliances per se. This motivated Ireland’s refusal to join Nato. The consensus was that a small state had no place in a superpower struggle.

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