The Government is “frightened” of a Citizens’ Assembly on neutrality, People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith has claimed.
Last year, the Government announced a significant boost to military spending and the Cabinet has signed off on a National Consultative Forum about the State’s security.
As Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney made headlines when he said that Ireland was “not neutral” on the Ukrainian conflict - seemingly contradicting generations of defence policy.
People Before Profit support the inclusion of neutrality in the Irish Constitution and Deputy Smith feels the Government is out of step with public opinion on the issue.
“What they’re avoiding is the citizens and what we’ve always asked for is a Citizens’ Assembly on neutrality and a referendum following that that would allow the Irish people a real say in what they think,” she told The Hard Shoulder.
“And I think the Government are very nervous - even frightened - of a Citizens’ Assembly on neutrality.”
Polling evidence suggests most Irish people support military neutrality - in April last year, only 29% of Irish supported joining NATO with 71% against.
“People want to maintain neutrality,” Deputy Smith continued.
“And the Government don’t want that and they’re afraid of the people.
“The people are always ahead of the Government and the politicians when it comes to Citizens’ Assemblies.”
'We're not neutral'
Minister of State Neale Richmond said there could be a Citizens’ Assembly on neutrality in “due course” but in the meantime the forum was a good idea.
“At the end of the day, we’re not neutral, we’re not politically neutral,” he said.
“We’re part of the European Union, we have a defence memorandum with the United Kingdom, we support Ukraine.
“We provided all the resources we can in nonlethal goods but then it comes to, ‘Well are we going to train Ukrainian soldiers to clear mines?’
“We think that isn’t a breach of our military neutrality.
“Others would say different and I respect their opinion.”
Ireland was invited to join NATO in 1949 but the Government rejected the idea because Britain “occupies a portion of our country with its armed forces”.