Carol Hunt: Kohl was right - our neutral stance is totally irrational
Citing "neutrality" as a reason not to come to the aid of our neighbours is not brave but a cop-out, writes Carol Hunt
In 1981, German chancellor Helmut Kohl deemed the Irish insistence on retaining neutrality to be an "irrational" one. Notes of a meeting (marked "especially confidential") he had with Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in December of that year, saw FitzGerald helpfully inform him that "Ireland was emotionally attached to military neutrality" mainly because we were still a "country divided" and "occupied by a another NATO member". He suggested that in the context of a new relationship with Britain over Northern Ireland, things could, perhaps, develop.
Since then we have seen a remarkable transformation in our relations with our nearest neighbour. The peace process, the Good Friday Agreement, the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, which left us feeling warm and fuzzy - all have contributed to Ireland and Britain cementing the best relationship that has ever historically existed between us. And yet one thing has not changed. And that's our "irrational" insistence on neutrality.
Last week's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll showed that over 56pc of us are convinced that Ireland should remain a neutral country. We feel our neutrality shields us from war - when in fact it is our membership of the European Union. Our generation are the luckiest to have ever lived in Europe, being as we are, part of an EU which has seen a 70-year period of peace. This is longer than any other period in all 2,000 years of recorded history. Like most other mothers, I can't think of anything worse than having to wave off my young son to a war.