Justifiable wars, neutrality and the Lisbon Treaty
In a recent opinion piece in The Irish Times,Tony Kinsella remonstrated with the Anti-Lisbon campaigners regarding their stance on neutrality. While I would agree with his general premise that neutrality is not always the honorable option his argument is surely as flawed as those he seeks to condemn. In conflating the EU, World War II and neutrality Mr. Kinsella is ensuring that in the minds of the Irish populace, Ireland is or ever was legally a neutral country and that the EU threatens this stance.
Kinsella argues contrary to an earlier piece by Dr. Karen Devine that respect for neutrality is based upon the ‘goodwill of the belligerents. Constructing the alternative of an enforceable system of international law pre-supposes the existence of entities such as the European Union.’ What Mr. Kinsella is basing this on is entirely unclear. The EU or other similar entities have no interest or legal role in the maintenance of neutrality, indeed the International Committee of the Red Cross is the only body charged with the regulation of the four Geneva Conventionsand its two additional protocols. During the period which most concerns Mr. Kinsella, World War II, neutrality was maintained by a number of countries without the aid of any entity similar to the EU.
The lack of legal analysis is entirely clear as Mr. Kinsella goes on to assert that, ‘[t]here is probably no such thing as a “good war”, and the concept of a “just war” has been so recuperated, bowdlerised and spun as to have lost all meaning’. Indeed, while Grotius may wish to argue the toss with Mr. Kinsella, the notion of a “just war” has not been relevant to international law since the early 20th Century, prior even to the outbreak of World War I.
Mr. Kinsella goes on to attack the Irish position during World War II. He quotes an interesting article by Garrett Fitzgerald, ‘The Origins, Development and Present Status of Irish ‘Neutrality’’ (1998) 9 Irish Studies in International Affairs11 and then goes on to suggest that Ireland’s non-participation in World War II caused the War to go on longer than was necessary. In one fact this is accurate. D-Day was delayed for 24 hours due to weather reports from Kerry which correctly predicted inclement conditions for an invasion. (For an interesting account of this see Antony Beever’s new book “D-Day: The Battle for Normandy“) Therefore Ireland was not neutral during World War II. While arguments may be made about whether we should have been belligerents, this does nothing to support Mr. Kinsella’s supposition that it is the anti-Lisbon campaigners are making, ‘melodramatic assertions,’ rather both sides should have regard to both actual history and the law. A more detailed account of the many misconceptions related to Irish neutrality can be found in an article I published in the Dublin University Law Journal. ‘The Inimitable Form of Irish Neutrality: From the Birth of the State to World War II’ (2008) 15(1) DULJ 259 – 278.