Consideration of Ireland’s foreign policy stance should not be ‘binary issue’

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Consideration of Ireland’s international security policy should not by a binary choice on whether it joins a military alliance, the country’s deputy premier has said.

Micheal Martin’s comments came after US President Joe Biden referenced Ireland’s long-standing policy of neutrality in a speech to the parliament in Dublin.

The Irish Government has established a forum to examine issues related to Ireland’s independent foreign policy position.

President Biden visit to the island of Ireland
US President Joe Biden addressing the Irish parliament (Government of Ireland/PA)

In his speech to the Dail on Thursday, Mr Biden highlighted a quote by President John F Kennedy 60 years ago when he stated that Ireland has never been neutral “between liberty and tyranny”.

“Over the past year Ireland has proved him right, and stood proudly with the United States and partners around the world for liberty against tyranny,” President Biden added, as he highlighted that Ireland has committed more than 170 million euro in non-lethal aid to Ukraine.

Mr Martin said the President had been “very taken” by the Irish humanitarian response to the Ukrainian situation.

“He constantly refers to the number of Ukrainian refugees that have been welcomed into Ireland and he really thinks it stands out in respect of the responses of other countries,” he told RTE Radio One.

“He knows that we’ve been a leader in terms of Ukraine becoming members of the European Union, we would have advocated strongly for that.

“In terms of the broader issue of an independent foreign policy, as he said himself are we are not militarily aligned, but we’re not politically neutral.”

Mr Martin said Ireland was already part of the rules-based international order and value system.

“That value system that the President spoke about is exactly where Ireland is in terms of values around democracy, freedom of the individual, the dignity of the individual and human rights and all of that and in terms of our work in Africa together, and in terms of food hunger,” he said.

“But there are broad threads coming our way, in terms of cybersecurity, hybrid warfare, and we have to be intelligent about that and we have to work in partnership, as we will be, and I think it’s important that we have a national conversation about that, in terms of the future threats and challenges to this country, and how do we respond to that?

“Are we equipped for that, and how do we manifest our independent foreign policy into the future?

“We wish to avoid a binary issue. It’s not just about whether you join a military alliance or not. It’s much broader than that.

“And I think most people in the international community are far more tolerant of our position than we might think ourselves, or some people might think here, and I think that’s the context for the national conversation.”

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