Taking a stance: What we should talk about when we talk about Irish neutrality

Recent events in eastern Europe have thrown Ireland’s longstanding policy of neutrality into sharper focus, with increasingly strident elements of the commentariat claiming that the public needs to ‘grow up’ on the issue. But most of the population remains reluctant to abandon a stance that has served the country well for a century

A Red C poll for the Business Post last week found that when asked if Ireland should drop its policy of neutrality, 57 per cent disagreed and 14 per cent said they didn’t know. Just 30 per cent agreed that it should.

Garret FitzGerald was no fan of neutrality. A former taoiseach and former minister for foreign affairs, and the son of Desmond FitzGerald, another former minister for foreign affairs, his opposition started young by his own account. In 1949, at the tender age of 12, he and his brother “initiated a correspondence in the Irish Independent in favour of Nato membership”.

FitzGerald would later tell a foreign affairs conference in 1997 – long after his political ...