Ireland is “essentially a proxy of NATO”, a professor at Maynooth University has claimed.
When NATO was founded in 1949, Ireland was offered membership but the Government declined because Britain “occupies a portion of our country with its armed forces”.
Neutrality has long been considered a mainstay of Irish foreign policy but Professor John Brennan said the reality was a lot more complex.
“I’ve thought for a long time that we maintain this incredible pretence that we are militarily neutral when in reality we’ve never been neutral,” he told On The Record with Gavan Reilly.
“If we go back to World War Two, there was very extensive intelligence cooperation with the British in particular, repatriation of airmen when their planes came down, sailors were rescued again when their ships went down.
“A huge number of Irish people were recruited to work in factories on munitions and other things.”
During the Cold War, the Irish Government secretly agreed the RAF could use Irish airspace and Professor Brennan said this was something no neutral country would have signed up to.
“The 1952 agreement that’s been in the news, it shouldn’t surprise us and if the RAF has been patrolling our skies since that time - how on earth can we claim that we’re neutral?” he said.
“We’re essentially a proxy of NATO.”
Professor Brennan said if Ireland were attacked it was “inevitable” the British would defend us but more should be done to secure the nation’s infrastructure.
“There’s a major report about all the incredible vulnerabilities of Ireland in respect to vital infrastructure,” he said.
“So, this is as much about our own capacity to defend ourselves and this is why I really welcome the Consultative Forum [on defence] because people are focusing on military neutrality when actually we should be on how our defence infrastructure should be allowed to atrophy over time and this has exposed us in multiple ways to the kind of threats you and I have been talking about.”
Last year, the State announced the budget of the Defence Forces would increase from €1bn to €1.5bn by 2028.
Main image: An Irish Defence Forces arm patch of a soldier in the Irish Army.