Irish neutrality has always been a controversial issue and is once more back in the headlines after the Irish government convened a series of public meetings nationwide to discuss the subject.

Those who say Ireland should drop its neutrality point to the obvious example of the Ukraine-Russia conflict where the vast majority of Irish support Ukraine.

Indeed, Ireland has absorbed tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine last year.

However, in terms of making such a policy official, it seems unlikely that the Irish government will move from its current position of remaining neutral.

President Michael D. Higgins made it clear last week that neutrality was a positive thing for Ireland, allowing the Irish a unique platform to negotiate between warring countries that have no mechanisms for debates.

To many people, the Irish government's position seems invidious. In fact, Ireland’s version of neutrality is somewhat laughable given that the country has made clear it leans very pro-West.

That was certainly the case during the Iraq War when hundreds of thousands of American troops de-planed at Shannon Airport and boarded flights for Iraq from Irish soil.

There is a counter-argument that Ireland is already proving its usefulness as a neutral country by serving as part of the UN peacekeeping forces. There is no question that the Irish have a proud record of defending those most in need.

However, meaningful UN missions are no longer possible given that Russia has a veto on the UN Security Council and can prevent Ireland, or any other country, from joining a UN peacekeeping force. 

The argument also breaks down politically, left vs. right. Left wing groups like Sinn Féin strongly argue in favor of neutrality, while those on the right believe that Ireland should declare its allegiances and back them up with force, if need be.

The great blot on the Irish neutrality history, of course, is when the country did not take a stand against Adolf Hitler, much to the chagrin of the Allied leadership which desperately wanted access to Irish ports at a critical time in World War II.

The image will also never be forgotten of then-Irish leader Éamon de Valera paying a visit to the Germany Embassy in Dublin and commiserating on the death of Hitler. That alone was one of the most ill-timed and unfortunate actions ever undertaken by an Irish government.

It is completely against the grain to try and remain neutral in the war between Ukraine and Russia. Ireland’s voice must be added to the chorus that the Russian attempt to inflict genocide on the Ukrainian people must not be allowed.

Neutrality is about more than membership of NATO which is a military alliance. There is no reason why Ireland could not join a European alliance of like-minded nations which would do everything in their power to stop the massacre of innocents in Ukraine.

The Irish cannot stick their heads in the sand anymore. What is occurring in the world today is a disastrous war that could have unintended consequences if it escalated to threats at the nuclear level. 

This is no time to be neutral, and Ireland should act accordingly.

*This editorial first appeared in the June 28 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.