When I first began publishing light-hearted crime fiction, I was quoted as “feeling intellectually English and temperamentally Irish”. This caused deep offence in some Irish quarters, but it remains pretty accurate.

Published: 21 May 2024

My English genes are very keen on reason and moderation: the Irish ones urge absurd optimism of the “Sure it’ll all be grand” variety, which is why I’m so useless with money.

When it comes to politics, my English temperament prevails, which is why I’m deeply suspicious of revolutionaries and am a natural conservative who accepts the need for balanced budgets, frugality with public finances and planning for rainy days and worst possible scenarios.

It is also why I’m dismayed — though not surprised — by the republic’s complete refusal to grasp such irrefutable truths as that Sinn Fein and the IRA are still indistinguishable, that unchecked immigration will destroy Irish culture and its way of life and that the absence of responsible security makes it an extremely attractive target for predators like China, Iran and Russia, who see the opportunities offered by this weak link to help destroy the West.

Here are a few bald facts about the Republic and defence.

Ireland is extremely vulnerable and thus so is Europe and the US. Hosting one-third of Europe’s data companies, it is a hub of global international financial and technology data, with three-quarters of the most critical Atlantic cables passing through or close to its maritime Exclusive Economic Zone.

In 2022, the EU spent 1.3% of its GDP on defence: Ireland spent 0.2%.GDP. The only country to spend less than Ireland was Iceland, with 0.1.

The only other countries spending less than 1% were Luxembourg and Malta (0.5), Austria 0.6 and Portugal (0.7). Vulnerable countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Greece all spent more than 2%.

That same year, Russia had invaded Ukraine.

The Irish government and public generously welcomed refugees without setting limits or seriously considering the economic, housing or political implications.

In 2013, Ireland’s Foreign Minister and Tánaiste, Micheál Martin, who so often seems to be one of the few grown-ups in the room, decided Ireland should address its security needs in the light of the changing geopolitical situation; he convened a Consultative Forum on International Security with Professor Dame Louise Richardson, an Irish political scientist with a brilliant track record that includes as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University playing a seminal role in making the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine happen.

President Higgins highlighted the composition of the panels at the forum saying they include “the admirals, the generals, the air force, the rest of it” as well as “the formerly neutral countries who are now joining NATO”.

Mr Martin pointed out they were people with “a variety of expertise and experience, including cyber security, disinformation, maritime security and critical infrastructure”.

Naturally, the president was therefore worried about threats to Ireland’s sacred neutrality. So was the hard left. Otherwise, no one cared much.

Dame Louise dealt crisply with critics when she delivered her final report last October, pointing out that unlike other neutral European countries, Ireland has never been in a position to defend itself. “Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland all invest heavily in their defence forces; they have conscription and very large reserves to supplement their significant standing forces.”

She dealt politely with Ireland’s freeloading. “Neutrality without the means to defend it necessarily entails relying on the goodwill or enlightened self-interest of others. This is not an optimal position for any sovereign state.”

The government is committed to increasing its financial commitment to defence, but it is electorally unpopular. Micheál Martin cannot even be certain he will be able to get rid of the triple lock that requires the permission of the government, the Dáil and the UN to deploy more than a dozen Irish troops for peacekeeping or European Union missions.

Meanwhile the British government and NATO are hoping that the Irish will grasp that for their survival they have to pay up, make sacrifices and work with allies. They can stay militarily but not politically neutral.

The UK’s informal protection of the Republic is no longer enough. It’s time for a bi-lateral security arrangement, whatever the president and the usual useful idiots think. Otherwise the outcome mightn’t be one bit grand for any of us.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This