Photo credit: Sinn Féin via Flickr (CC BY 2.0

Sinn Féin’s confused approach to Irish neutrality

One of Sinn Féin’s biggest critiques of the Irish government is that parties like Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not serious about military neutrality.

In the run-up to the 2019 local election, Sinn Féin urged the public to “defend neutrality” by voting for them “because others can’t be trusted.” They added that “you can’t trust Fianna Fáil with Irish neutrality.”

More recently, amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesman John Brady TD lashed out at the government over the issue once again.

This is one of their main talking points. Keep that in mind going forward.

This week, after the government moved to expel several Russian diplomats for unclear “security” reasons, Sinn Féin said the government was being soft on the Russian embassy, and should go even further to put the screws on them.

“I welcome the announcement that the government have expelled four Russian diplomats from Ireland,” said Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

“…In the interim, the government must act in the strongest possible terms by expelling the Russian Ambassador – the humanitarian crisis unfolding before us demands action at that level.”

Now, whether you agree or disagree with Mary Lou, why is this noteworthy?

Well, in 2018, just four years ago, McDonald herself said that then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expelling a Russian diplomat from Ireland was “a flagrant disregard for Irish neutrality.”

The statement on the Sinn Féin website has now been deleted, but luckily someone archived it one month ago, meaning it was only taken down by the party recently – possibly to avoid embarrassment.

“[Expelling a Russian diplomat] is completely in line with the efforts of Fine Gael and your Government to undermine and dismantle that neutrality,” McDonald said.

“…Your job as Taoiseach is to defend and reinforce our neutrality.”

So effectively, Sinn Féin’s policy is “kicking diplomats out is a violation of neutrality – unless we agree. Then it’s fine.”

The argument given in 2018 for not expelling the diplomat was Sinn Féin viewed it as the Irish government tipping its cap to Britain, who were having a dispute with Russia at the time.

As McDonald said:

“Simply citing ‘solidarity with Britain’ isn’t good enough.”

And indeed – solidarity with Britain probably isn’t a good enough reason to hurt diplomatic ties.

But solidarity with Ukraine is?

There’s no evidence or suggestion that the Russian ambassador is anything but just that – an ambassador. Nobody has accused him personally of spying or espionage.

Yet Sinn Féin want to expel him from the country purely to prove a point about how Ireland is on Team Ukraine – exactly what they said Fine Gael was guilty of with Britain.

I hate to break it to you lads, but that’s not neutrality.

Neutrality doesn’t just mean giving the two fingers to NATO. It doesn’t just mean opposing US troops in Shannon airport. It means not taking sides in conflicts – any conflicts – that don’t involve us. Full stop.

Maybe you disagree with that position. Maybe you think we have to weigh in on one side or the other. And that’s fine. But let’s accept then that we aren’t a neutral country and we are explicitly taking sides.

Already, the Russians have threatened consequences for the moves we’ve taken, saying it “will not go unanswered.”

And what is Sinn Féin’s reaction? To double down on it, and push them even further.

Again, whatever you want to call this, it is not neutrality. It has never been what any human in history meant by neutrality. These lads must be going to the Simon Coveney school of politics.

When neither the government, nor the opposition knows the meaning of a word this fundamental, you know our country has a serious problem.



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