When France asks for help – Ireland says yes
France has been overwhelmed by expressions of support and solidarity over the past five days. And Ireland has been to the fore among those sending positive messages of hope to our old friends in that splendid country.
It has been among the few positive things which have come from the appalling terror wrought by Isil in the ‘City of Light’. But talk is cheap – and yesterday the French government made its first formal request for more practical support from all its EU allies, including Ireland.
It was the first ever evocation of Article 42.7 of the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon, approved back in 2009. This provides for a member state seeking aid and support from the others in the event of suffering violent aggression on its own territory.
Happily, Ireland and all the other 26 EU member states said yes without any delay or demur. The development does, in the words of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, show that the EU really is a union and a community.
It is important to note that this clause does not have implications for Ireland’s military neutrality. The article contains a clear caveat which states it “shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member states”.
That caveat is a specific reference to Ireland and fellow EU neutral states, Sweden, Finland and Austria. We also note that two other EU member states, Malta and Cyprus, also remain outside the NATO military alliance.
Ireland has received many assurances from the EU that our military neutrality will be respected. Warnings by some sceptics that the EU will conscript our children and march them to war in a foreign land remain entirely bogus.
Just what practical form Ireland’s and the other EU member states’ aid may take remains to be seen. The next move is up to the Paris government.
We must trust that realistic measures can be agreed in due course. The EU response was the only available option.
Footballers have lifted the mood of the nation
When the Irish football team is on song, it has a powerful ability to dictate the mood of the nation. The euphoric reaction to Monday night’s play-off win over Bosnia has illustrated that point.
It has been a difficult decade for the game in this country, with a slow production line of talent making it harder to compete on the international stage, and falling attendances suggesting there was a growing apathy towards the Boys in Green. The highlight of the Giovanni Trapattoni era, which was making Euro 2012, ended up being a case of ‘one step forward and two steps back’ as it exposed serious failings.
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane inherited a group low on confidence and with modest playing backgrounds. The number of late goals that were scored on the road to France is a testament to the character of a group that has worked hard to become greater than the sum of its parts. Their efforts deserve the adulation of a public that has not always been understanding about their limitations. With an Olympics to be factored into the equation, 2016 promises to be an Irish sporting year to remember.