Irish Examiner
May 23, 2022

Should Ireland debate joining Nato and abandoning ‘neutrality’?

The decision by Finland and Sweden to end their long history of neutrality, or military non-alignment, and apply for Nato membership – and the speed at which that decision has been made – marks a seismic development in European security and foreign affairs.


Ireland, Austria, Malta, and Cyprus are now the four remaining EU member states maintaining their neutrality – or military neutrality as many, particularly in the Government, describe it.

Against the background of rapid developments in EU defence and security cooperation this year and the provision of military aid by EU states to Ukraine, the move by Finland and Sweden has sparked renewed interest in Ireland’s long-standing tradition of neutrality.

The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Foreign Affairs Minister all appear to be setting the ground for a debate on our neutrality.


The Nato versus neutrality conundrum

Scott Fitzsimmons: “In the wake of the recent announcements by Finland and Sweden that these historically neutral countries seek to join Nato as soon as possible, Ireland should hold a serious public debate about whether it should join the alliance.”

He said that while Ireland has consistently claimed to be a neutral country, its behaviour often belied this.


He said Ireland provided these services [critical intelligence and logistical support, such as refuelling aircraft, to the Allies.”] to Nato members throughout the Cold War and still does, at Shannon Airport.

“Moreover, as a country with relatively small armed forces, Ireland has always cooperated with a founding Nato member, the UK….

“Nevertheless, the Irish government and much of Irish society maintain a belief that Ireland is a neutral country.

“Joining Nato does not mean that Ireland will suddenly need to start behaving like the United States….”


“With this in mind, Ireland should debate how, if at all, it wants to alter its approach to foreign policy after joining the alliance,” he said.

Besides agreeing to adhere to the provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty, including Article V – in which members will assist another member state that is attacked and take “such action as it deems necessary” Ireland would remain free….