Ireland is “not neutral” in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Simon Coveney has said in a significant rupture from a shibboleth that has defined Irish foreign policy for decades.
As Minister for Defence, Coveney has approved the dispatch of 200 units of body armour and around 10 tonnes of ready meals to Ukraine following Kyiv’s appeal for non-lethal aid.
Minister Coveney said he expects the items will arrive at a Polish logistics hub within the next few days.
“Ireland is not neutral in this war,” he told The Pat Kenny Show.
“Let nobody be under any illusions there. We are not neutral, we have taken sides and we’re right to take sides.
“When a global military superpower invades a sovereign independent country, targets its civilians to try and break the spirit of that country to force its will on them. That is not something that you can be neutral on.
“And if Ireland is to be a credible member of the international community, that makes international decisions and foreign policy decisions on the basis of international law, well then, you cannot be neutral on something like that.
“And we’re not neutral.
“And that’s why we are contributing to help the Ukrainian military to defend themselves and defend their people and their sovereignty.
“And that’s why the country is taking such a proactive role in terms of responding to the humanitarian crisis as well.”
"Ireland is not neutral on this war" - Minister for Defence Simon Coveney tells @PatKennyNT. pic.twitter.com/XzagugVClC
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) March 14, 2022
However, Minister Coveney also that military-aid was not the only way in which the Government would try and deter the Kremlin:
“We need to focus on tougher again sanctions if necessary,” he continued:
“Working with other countries in the international community to put pressure on Moscow to end this brutality as soon as possible and to move to the negotiating table.
“And that’s what Ireland continues to support.”
The end of neutrality?
Minister Coveney is not the only Irish politician who has questioned traditional notions of neutrality in recent weeks; Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher told The Hard Shoulder that the country needs to discuss what role our Defence Forces should play in a world that looks increasingly unsafe:
"We have an alarmist view in Ireland when we discuss our neutrality,” he said.
"Straight away if we're talking about changing our neutrality that we're talking about joining NATO and buying big jets and heading off into the skies invading countries.
"But we have to accept that we're very vulnerable as a country ourselves.
"We have no capability of defending ourselves".
However, out on the streets of Dublin, views were more mixed. While one gentleman told a Newstalk reporter “I’d punch Putin in the face”, most were far less gung-ho. One lady was blunt that she didn’t want Irish troops to be sent overseas:
“Stay neutral to be honest with you,” she said.
“It’s not fair sending men and women out to get killed. And he’s a madman."
Main image: Irish Defence Forces Army soldiers training on a snow covered Curragh Plains. Picture by: Eamonn Farrell / RollingNews.ie