Taoiseach Micheál Martin has suggested that a citizens’ assembly should be convened to discuss the future of Irish neutrality.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Martin said Ireland needed a debate on its neutrality but “not now” while the war in Ukraine was ongoing.
He said that Ireland has a tradition of military neutrality “but we have never been politically neutral”.
“We do need a discussion on this,” the Taoiseach said. “Not right now in the middle of a terrible war when we should be concentrating our resources on helping the Ukrainian people in a practical way…
“I think we could look at a citizens’ assembly to discuss these issues in the fullness of time – where detailed prepared submissions from a wide range of opinion could be considered.”
Mr Martin was answering questions from People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett, who said that Ireland’s neutrality was under siege from commentators and Ministers who were suggesting it should be abandoned.
The Dún Laoghaire TD said there was a “clamour” to exploit the Ukrainian crisis to “move Ireland away to from its traditional position of military neutrality and to move closer to Nato and to the project of European militarisation”.
Mr Boyd Barrett strongly condemned Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “brutal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine” but said that Ireland should not respond by joining a military alliance that had “conducted and supported murderous wars elsewhere in the world”.
He cited Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories as evidence of this.
Mr Martin said Mr Boyd-Barrett had criticised Nato as “warmongers” but there was “only one warmonger here and that was Russia”.
He said the invasion of Ukraine had transformed the security situation in the world and that Ireland and the EU needed to take account of this.
“It would be foolish to ignore that reality. The European Union is exposed security-wise as a result of what has happened,” he said.
Independent TD and former army officer Cathal Berry suggested that Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky should be invited to address the Dáil.
Mr Martin said he was not opposed to the idea, but it would depend on whether Mr Zelensky wished to do so and the security situation in his country.