Should Ireland remain neutral?

Aoife Breslin

Russia about to conduct naval exercises off the coast of Cork, we must remind ourselves that Ireland’s stance on using neutrality as a means of security, will not work when faced with global conflict.

For decades, Ireland has taken the neutral course in order to avoid having a security policy.

In previous wars we can see how this would have worked for Ireland, they sheltered beneath Nato’s shield during the cold war, not contributing to the fight but also not showing a purely neutral stance either.

Dublin’s policy to freeride during this war ended up keeping Ireland in the anti-Soviet camp cost-free.

Unfortunately for Ireland, our coast is about to be raided by Russia, it is time they decided that adopting a security policy would be a step forward for the country.

Ireland’s neutrality has always played a major role in peacekeeping operations worldwide, which has led them to believe that they don’t need a security policy. However, with Russia’s war games moving in on Irish soil, the security of Ireland’s island is becoming unsettled.

Our geographical location previously benefitted us when avoiding global conflict, but with the growth of Ireland’s cyberspace, we can no longer isolate ourselves from engagement in these wars, especially with the danger of cyberattacks at our forefront.

When it comes to technology and information services, Ireland is host to many major headquarters and data centers. Making them vulnerable to cyberattacks, which more than often have real-life implications.

In 2021, the Health Service Executive (HSE) faced a major cyberattack. This major incident is said to have been conducted by rogue criminal actors within Russia using Conti Ransomware.

With over 80% of IT infrastructure impacted and a loss of major documents and patient information, Ireland’s healthcare system is still recovering from this cyberattack.

Even with the neutrality that Ireland maintains, in any conflict between Russia and Europe, Ireland’s role as a key infrastructure provider will always cause them to be targeted.

With Russian naval forces incoming, Ireland is not capable to overturn the Russians alone, however, it should be able to deploy naval assets that can monitor the Russian’s moves.

Leaving their waters undefended may be the only option for the Irish if they do not call upon allies to ensure that the Russians know they are not allowing them to overtake their territory.

Announcing that Russia’s exercises are ‘unwelcome’ is not enough to overthrow the current situation, it is merely letting them know that Ireland will do nothing to stop them.

Country leaders such as the French President Emmanuel Macron have pushed for Europe to become more serious about its security policy.

In contrast, Ireland remains comfortable in its neutral state but there is a choice to be made: Ireland either must support a European security policy being introduced or aim to take a completely neutral stance such as Austria or Switzerland.

The option for being a neutral state when convenient is no longer good for Ireland, it must prepare to pay the cost of becoming truly neutral or push for a security policy.