1878: Irish last with imperial army in Afghanistan – had more influence over British institutions then than today in EU


That Guy Mitchell Again…

The Tallaght Express breathlessly reports that some of the girls and boys of Dublin South-West Young Fine Gael recently travelled to Belgium as guests of the presidential aspirant Gay Mitchell. While there they visited NATO headquarters, where they discussed “Ireland’s involvement in NATO on a political and military level” with the Irish ambassador and the first secretary of the Irish embassy. (The ambassador doubles as “head of Ireland’s Liaison Office to the Partnership for Peace.”)

An obviously awestruck chairperson of the Young Fine Gael delegation, Dale McDermott, enthused:

“NATO is a remarkable institution. It has such a big influence on the world stage, and visiting its headquarters and participating in in-depth discussions was very worth while. I think that we need a full and frank debate on our involvement in NATO. In my opinion we need to properly engage with this issue.”

Remember the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and the “guarantees” on “military neutrality,” with EU “common defence” and the “European Defence Agency” thrown on the table to con enough people into reversing their original rejection of the treaty?

The “guarantees” did not alter the fact that under the Lisbon Treaty all twenty-seven EU member-states, Ireland included, formally agree to what in essence is a mutual defence pact, to aid and assist other member-states experiencing armed attack “by all the means in their power” (Treaty on European Union, article 42.7) and to progressively expand their “military capabilities”(article 42.3).

Earlier this year, on 19 February, there was a revealing debate in the EU Parliament. By a small majority (293 to 283), members passed a resolution—reciting the usual “phenomena such as international terrorism . . . organised crime, cyberthreats, environmental deterioration, natural disasters and other disasters”—to justify “still closer partnership” between the EU and NATO. An note appended to the resolution was ruthlessly stark.

“Without a military dimension the EU is like a barking dog without teeth.”

And neutrality?

“The doctrine of non-alignment, inherited from the cold war era, undermines the alliance of democracies.”

“The EU is a unique and essential partner for NATO”

Paragraph 32 of the “Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation,” adopted by heads of state and heads of government during the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon towards the end of last year, is quite explicit about the NATO-EU dynamic.

An active and effective European Union contributes to the overall security of the Euro-Atlantic area. Therefore the EU is a unique and essential partner for NATO. The two organisations share a majority of members, and all members of both organisations share common values. NATO recognises the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence. We welcome the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which provides a framework for strengthening the EU’s capacities to address common security challenges.

Non-EU Allies make a significant contribution to these efforts. For the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU, their fullest involvement in these efforts is essential. NATO and the EU can and should play complementary and mutually reinforcing roles in supporting international peace and security.

We are determined to make our contribution to create more favourable circumstances through which we will fully strengthen the strategic partnership with the EU, in the spirit of full mutual openness, transparency, complementarily and respect for the autonomy and institutional integrity of both organisations; enhance our practical co-operation in operations throughout the crisis spectrum, from coordinated planning to mutual support in the field; broaden our political consultations to include all issues of common concern, in order to share assessments and perspectives; [and] co-operate more fully in capability development, to minimise duplication and maximise cost-effectiveness.

So, it is understood that “the future collective defence of the European Union” will be organised exclusively within the framework of a NATO-EU alliance. This alliance will not hesitate to deploy its forces in combined civil and military missions to the borders of Pakistan.

Let us examine one small but significant Irish involvement in such a deployment.

Well over half a million American soldiers have passed through Shannon Airport on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan. This fact is well known. What is less well known is Ireland’s participation in the NATO-led “International Security Assistance Force” in Afghanistan, going on since July 2002.

The ISAF’s mission statement defines its role thus:

“In support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, [the] International Security Assistance Force conducts operations in Afghanistan to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population.”

Spoofery about “peacekeeping,” “conflict prevention” and “humanitarian operations” cannot hide the fact that this is the mission statement of an intervention operating on classic counter-insurgency principles. To wage a successful counter-insurgency you have to kill, by bomb and bullet; and that is what successive Governments signed up to through

Ireland’s involvement with the ISAF.

The ISAF web site makes the command structure very clear.

“On 11 August 2003 NATO assumed leadership of the ISAF operation . . . The Alliance became responsible for the command, coordination and planning of the force, including the provision of a force commander and headquarters on the ground in Afghanistan.”

While only seven Irish military personnel participate in ISAF, the principle is very clear. Seven, seventy, seven hundred or seven thousand—it makes no difference. As a state contributing to ISAF, Ireland is as responsible for Afghan deaths as the United States and Britain, whose ground troops and air crews are doing most of the killing.

Earlier in their Belgian visit the young Fine Gael people had visited the European Parliament, and Dale McDermott was just as effusive as he had been at the NATO headquarters.

“Quite frankly, it is an amazing place. This is the heart of Europe. It is where all the important decisions that affect the daily lives of all Europeans are initiated and decided. An astonishing fact that must be noted is that 70 per cent of all legislation in Ireland is in fact European legislation.”

However, what obviously came as a revelation to him did not prompt any serious questioning. For example, with regard to parliamentary institutions he might have further reflected that in 1878, when Irish soldiers last served with an imperial army in Afghanistan, Irish people had proportionately more influence over those imperial institutions than Ireland has today in the EU.

In the nineteenth century British parliament Ireland had 100 votes out of 600 (and Irish nationalists had 70 out of the 100), a greater proportionate influence than the 12 out of 736 in the European Parliament today; and even if you add the three Northern MEPs to the number it does not make for more influence.

Notwithstanding this, Irish democrats were not satisfied with that state of affairs.

It should give us all cause for reflection today.

And further cause for reflection

The Young Fine Gael Summer School, meeting in Galway last weekend, unanimously endorsed the selection by Fine Gael of Gay Mitchell as the party’s candidate for president of Ireland. The president of Young Fine Gael, Eric Keane, said: “Gay Mitchell is a man of the greatest integrity who has a strong and focused set of beliefs.”

Indeed! Trips to NATO for everybody in the audience?

People’s Movement · 25 Shanowen Crescent · Dublin 9 · www.people.ie · 087 2308330 · post (at) people (dot) ie
The People’s Movement has launched a new pamphlet entitled The European Stability Mechanism and the case for an Irish Referendum.
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