Calls from Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael for Ireland to increase defence spending in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are “entirely disingenuous” according to an anti-war activist.
In the Dáil this afternoon, the Tánaiste said Ireland must have the ability to effectively patrol our seas and skies.
He said Ireland can no longer assume that neutrality will protect us from attack, noting that Ukraine was also neutral militarily before the Russian invasion.
He said the assumption that the US or Britain would come to our aid is not one a “sovereign country like ours should make", noting that the invasion should be a wake-up call for all of us to be ready to defend our system.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Minister Varadkar’s Fine Gael colleague Neale Richmond said Ireland needs to defend itself from “an ever-changing vista of potential aggressors”.
“I don’t want to spend more on defence or military equipment for the sake of it,” he said.
“I don’t particularly like spending money on home insurance or my car alarm and house alarm, but I know they are a necessity I hope I never have to use.
“I think we have to be realistic in this State that we are not protected as a little island behind an island. The world is changing and we need to react to that and ensure we have a grown-up, mature conversation and what is happening, sadly, in Ukraine is a stark reminder for all of us.”
He name-checked a range of potential threats to the State – including Russia, China, drug cartels and international terrorist groups like ISIS.
In response, anti-war activist John Molyneux dismissed the calls as “entirely disingenuous”.
“I think that Leo Varadkar, the leadership of Fine Gael in particular and other elements of the Irish political establishment have long wanted to undermine the principal of neutrality that has served Ireland very well for 70 years,” he said.
“They don’t like that and they want us to be in the NATO and the EU imperial [fold] … and the best proof of that is what goes on in Shannon where we have been facilitating American wars and all sorts of terrible actions around the world for many years.”
He said the series of threats put forward by Deputy Richmond is a “smoke screen for something the Irish establishment has been trying to do for a long time”.
“I mean come on this is silly,” he said. “I don’t think that is what this is about.”
“Of course I don’t approve of international cartels or ISIS, but he is just throwing around these bogey words.
“The Russian attack on Ukraine I condemn unequivocally. It is absolutely horrible what is happening, but you can’t use that as an excuse to undermine Irish neutrality.
“There is no prospect whatsoever of Russia coming to attack Ireland. Why would they and how could they with the whole of Europe in between? Ukraine has a border with Russia so there is no parallel there.
“And if they did - let’s be honest - if they marched through Europe, conquered Europe, defeated Britain and arrived here, whether you put our spending up to €3bn or whatever it is [it would make no difference].”
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