Disentangling a confused history
Ireland is neutral – sort of.
There are only three militarily neutral countries in the EU: Ireland, Austria, and Malta.1 You don’t need to know much about European history to be wary of Austrian militarisation, and Malta makes Ireland look like Pangea. But why is Ireland neutral – and what does that mean?
The journalist Conor Gallagher has written a new book, Is Ireland Neutral? The Many Myths of Irish Neutrality. It disentangles the confused and confusing history of Irish neutrality, and answers the titular question with delicious ambiguity. When reading this kind of book, I come for the history, and I skim or skip the moral and political analysis, of which Gallagher gives us mercifully little.
Neutrality is a fraught political issue in Ireland. They say that social security is the third rail of American politics (the third rail on an electric railway will electrocute you). Neutrality is Ireland’s third rail; touch it and you die.
At times, Irish neutrality seems extreme; we didn’t even fight in World War II. Other times, the term is a farce. It is a cliché in Ireland to say that we are militarily but not politically neutral. The term ‘post-neutral’ seems to be coming into use to describe countries like Austria and Ireland – a new cliché, perhaps. And the term ‘traditional neutrality’ is a uniquely Irish piece of sophistry, with a slightly unclear meaning. Irish ‘neutrality’ means whatever the government of the day says it means.
NB: All facts are sourced from the book unless otherwise stated.
Was Ireland ever neutral?
Ireland’s neutrality is as much a matter of convention as formal arrangement. There is no mention of neutrality in the Irish constitution, and no law committing the government to it. Still, Ireland is internationally recognised as a neutral country in many respects.
Neutrality first reared its head as a practical possibility for Ireland during the negotiations of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which birthed the independent Irish Free State in 1921. Military neutrality was one of the initial demands of Michael Collins and the other plenipotentiaries negotiating the Treaty. When the Irish side realised that achieving neutrality would use up some of their political capital, it was dropped almost immediately. Éamon de Valera’s counter-proposal to the Treaty, which came to be known as Document No. 2, didn’t even mention the concept of neutrality.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty birthed the Civil War, as the Irish Republican Army splintered into pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions. But, according to Gallagher, the split was almost entirely related to Ireland being forced into the Commonwealth and to partition – not to the question of neutrality.
A quixotic interpretation of early 20th-century Irish history is that Ireland freed itself from the shackles of Britain to pursue a more ethically enlightened foreign and military policy. But this was simply not that important to Irish nationalists of the time!
De Valera himself was not initially in favour of neutrality. The Irish Free State favoured ‘collective security’ – that is, a mutual defence pact and an army associated with the League of Nations. It was in this context that de Valera would become one of the strongest voices in the international community in favour of an armed force to prevent Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. After the League of Nations proved itself toothless, de Valera became disaffected with collective security, and began favouring out-and-out neutrality.
Collective security failed in part because the United States wasn’t a member of the League. Woodrow Wilson was strongly in favour of joining, but Republicans in the Senate attached various amendments to membership that made it politically impossible to do so. In an amusing twist, one of these amendments involved recognising the Irish Republic, the self-declared provisional government intent on overthrowing British rule.
These historical episodes call into question whether Ireland has ever been a neutral country, or whether we’re retroactively pretending we were, for the purposes of national myth-making. There were few references in the Dáil (parliament) between the 40s and 70s to the concept of Ireland being a neutral country. It didn’t really come up. In 1969, the taoiseach Jack Lynch told the Dáil that “we have no traditional policy of neutrality in this country”. Garret FitzGerald expressed a similar sentiment: “Every Irish taoiseach from 1960 to the 1990s rejected the concept of neutrality…”. Clearly, there are different ways that one can interpret neutrality, but it must be asked: What kind of a policy does Ireland have if it can’t even convince its own leaders it’s neutral?
The phoney non-war
Ireland’s neutrality in the Second World War, or ‘the Emergency’, is controversial. Perhaps more so than at any other time, the concept of neutrality was stretched and abused. Cooperation with the Allies was extensive.2
The Hague Convention mandates that neutral countries cannot allow belligerents to use their territory to move troops. If soldiers of either side crash-landed in Ireland, the government was obligated to arrest them. In practice, only German pilots were interned. Toward the beginning of the war, a small number of RAF pilots were imprisoned in Curragh Camp, but, mischievously, “some still managed to find their way across the border to Northern Ireland”. Allied soldiers could be imprisoned in Ireland, just so long as someone forgot to lock the gate…
These breaches of Irish neutrality were often justified with the argument that, in each case, the aircraft were on training or rescue missions (and, therefore, not subject to international rules on internment). RAF and American crews flying over the Atlantic were even instructed to falsely claim they were on a rescue mission if they landed in Ireland.
Ireland played an important intelligence role for the Allies. A month before D-Day, American planes were allowed into Irish airspace to gather navigational information.3 General Daniel McKenna, the Irishman responsible for the arrangement, was put forward by the Pentagon for the Legion of Merit – before it was pointed out how damaging it would be to give military honours to an allegedly neutral country. Instead, the Americans gifted McKenna a very nice ashtray, made out of a bomb (you can’t make this stuff up).
The most striking example of Irish intelligence-gathering was a weather report made by Maureen Flavin, a 21-year-old woman in County Mayo, on the 3rd of June 1944. She detected a rapid drop in pressure, indicating that a storm was imminent. Within hours, her report was in the hands of Dwight Eisenhower, and he decided to delay the D-Day landings by one day. Operation Overlord had initially been scheduled for June 5th, but was pushed by 24 hours in response to Flavin’s data. In 2021, Congress awarded Flavin a medal for her contribution – which she was, astonishingly, still alive to receive.
The Irish Free State also broadcast the locations of belligerent vessels. When they did so, the messages were encoded with a British cypher. Ireland could maintain a façade of neutrality by broadcasting this information to everyone, but in practice, only the Allies could understand it.
Only in recent years has the extent of Irish contributions to codebreaking during the war become known. The enigma code is famous, but many different forms of codes, cyphers, and secret writing were used by both sides. Ireland’s foremost codebreaker was Richard Hayes, Director of the National Library of Ireland. Among Hayes’ accomplishments was the case of Günter Schüntz, who was a Nazi officer tasked with convincing sympathetic IRA members to transmit weather information to Germany. After he was mistakenly parachuted to the wrong location, Schüntz was apprehended by Gardaí and his luggage was inspected. Within ten days, Hayes had found and translated the entire contents of Schüntz’s ‘microdot’ system of communication. It would take the Americans another four months to figure out such a system even existed. Later, Hayes decrypted a message from Major Hermann Goertz, which had stumped Bletchley Park, and which was described by MI5 as “one of the best three or four in the War.” Hayes’ daughter claims that he was given a medal by Churchill, in the utmost secrecy.
Sadly, there is no Hollywood film about Hayes, and he remains a fairly obscure figure. As with the Legions of Merit being turned down, a nominally neutral country was put into the position of treating the contribution of its citizens to the war effort with a peculiar mix of pride and embarrassment.
Gallagher mentions a report from MI5, which concluded that Ireland was actually more useful to the Allies out of the war than it would have been in it. If Ireland had been belligerent, suitable men would have been stationed in Ireland to protect against the possibility of a land invasion, rather than voluntarily enlisting in the British Army (as over 80,000 did). Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery, a veteran of the War of Independence, was asked to devise a plan for a land invasion of Ireland, should it fall into Nazi hands. He was reported to have replied “Oh no, we’re not going back into Ireland…” Ireland’s paper neutrality allowed it to engage in almost limitless sharing and gathering of intelligence, without facing many repercussions.
“An act of unpardonable discourtesy”
Probably the most internationally infamous episode involving Irish neutrality in the War was when the taoiseach Éamon de Valera visited the German embassy to give his condolences upon the death of Hitler.4 My Viennese friend recently visited me, and teased my family for being from “the only country in the world to be officially sad about Hitler killing himself”. De Valera was well aware this was a controversial decision; presumably he didn’t foresee the considerable international outcry it would create. He resolutely defended his decision, saying that to fail to give condolences to the German ambassador would be “an act of unpardonable discourtesy… I certainly was not going to add to his humiliation in the hour of defeat.”
There is a lot to dislike about de Valera, but he wasn’t sympathetic to Nazism. De Valera was following an overly strict interpretation of Irish neutrality, and he assumed that other neutral countries would do the same. One really wonders why no one thought to make a clarificatory phone call at this point. Not one other neutral country expressed condolences. This lapse in judgement would haunt de Valera’s reputation for the rest of his life – and it severely undermined Irish diplomatic credibility.
Ireland and NATO: A massive fluke
The Irish government currently seems to define neutrality as non-membership in any military alliance. But, as it turns out, the reason Ireland isn’t in NATO isn’t due to any principled objection, but a complete historical accident.
In 1948, the countries which would coalesce into NATO approached Ireland to see if it would be interested in joining. Seán MacBride, as Minister for External Affairs, decided to withhold Irish membership in NATO until Britain agreed to allow a united Ireland (on the theory that, due to its geography, Ireland would be strategically vital). The gambit, of course, failed: MacBride vastly overestimated the strategic importance of Ireland to the trans-Atlantic alliance.
It wouldn’t be without precedent for a militarily toothless country to join NATO. Iceland is a NATO member, despite the fact that it literally has no army. NATO would certainly prefer that Ireland be a member, but the idea that Britain (or any other country) would make a major concession to achieve this is laughable.
Ireland told NATO to go big or go home. They wouldn’t go big, so they all went home.
When the NATO gambit failed, the Irish government offered to join a military alliance with the US, also with the goal of using this as a bargaining chip to end partition. I have to admire the sheer cheek of Ireland, thinking that we are so important that we could extract major concessions from the international community. God loves a trier.
In 1959, the prospect of joining NATO was re-examined by the Irish government. The Department of External Affairs came out against it, with a list of pros and cons. Neutrality was not even mentioned. (Nor was partition. By this point, MacBride’s plucky strategy had been abandoned.)
Neutrality has more holes than Swiss cheese
If Ireland is on one end of the spectrum of its neutrality being flukey and opportunistic, Switzerland is at the opposite extreme. The extent of planning and investment required for a country at the heart of Europe to remain neutral has been enormous. The Swiss government has placed an unknown quantity of explosives under all the road, rail, and bridge networks into the country. It’s ready to wall itself off at short notice. It wasn’t until 2013 that Switzerland stopped secretly putting bombs inside infrastructure projects that it built in collaboration with other governments. When Switzerland joined the League of Nations, its neutral status was officially recognised, but Ireland’s wasn’t.
Just as with Ireland, it is ahistorical to suggest that the Swiss are neutral for reasons of cultural or ethical enlightenment. Switzerland was made neutral by fiat in the Congress of Vienna because it suited the major European powers to have a buffer state between France and Austria. Like Ireland, both Sweden and Switzerland had a qualified neutrality in WWII, in which they helped one side a lot more than the other – in their cases, the Nazis. But the extent of cooperation paled in comparison to Ireland with the Allies.
Wherever “Brits out” is yelled…
Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, when Charles Haughey was taoiseach. The West was united on the side of the UK, and imposed sanctions. That support wavered to an extent with the sinking of Argentina’s naval cruiser ARA General Belgrano, which led to over 300 men drowning (seen by some as excessive). In particular, Haughey announced that because Ireland is neutral, it would withdraw its sanctions against Argentina. He also advocated an international settlement that seemed to imply Argentina and Britain were equally at fault.5
As Gallagher tells it, essentially no one in the Department of Foreign Affairs agreed with Haughey’s assessment, and there was generally a consensus that the sanctions should remain in place. Haughey himself had implemented sanctions against Iran in 1979 during the hostage crisis. Adding to the absurdity, the sanctions against Argentina were from the whole EEC – it’s not clear Ireland could have pulled out even if it wanted to! Before anyone had time to resolve these legal questions, the war was over.
It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that Haughey was a loose cannon, aiming for short-term electoral benefit. Thatcher was apparently so incensed that she enquired whether it would be possible to withdraw voting rights from Irish citizens living in the UK.
Under one incredibly strict interpretation of neutrality, Ireland shouldn’t even express an official opinion about international affairs, or engage in sanctions and other non-military pressure to move other countries in a particular direction. I’ve never heard anyone defend this version of neutrality; even Switzerland uses economic sanctions. I’ve read defenders of the view that sanctions don’t work, but I gather these people still think that, if sanctions did work, then it would be ethically justified for neutral countries to use them.
Shannon and America
One of the most politically fraught purported violations of Irish neutrality is the use of Shannon Airport by the United States military. The sheer scale of troop movements through Shannon is astonishing. Since 2001, around three million troops have transited through Shannon Airport, generally on their way to or from overseas military bases.6
American use of Shannon is subject to certain conditions: the aircraft must be unarmed, and carry no ammunition or explosives; they can’t engage in intelligence gathering; and the flights must not form part of any “military exercise or operations”. In principle, the Irish government should be conducting inspections to ensure that this is the case, but in practice, this hardly happens. The Irish have long had a policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. In 2006, an Amnesty International report found that CIA aircraft that were known to be involved in the illegal rendition of prisoners for torture were nonetheless still being allowed in Shannon.
Public opinion in Ireland toward America’s various wars in the Middle East was and is overwhelmingly negative, but successive governments have faced irresistible pressure to stay in the US’s good books. Protestors are periodically arrested for disrupting flights at the airport; two such arrestees are now TDs. America is Ireland’s largest trading partner, and military refuelling in Shannon is a major source of money and employment. As Gallagher says, when the US asked for help to prosecute its wars in the Middle East, “it did not have to ask twice”.
Can EU members be neutral?
Ireland, the UK and Denmark all joined the European Economic Community at the same time in 1973. As part of its application, the Irish government made it clear that it would be happy to completely abandon its neutrality if it were necessary for greater economic integration.
In 2007, Article 42(7) of the Treaty of Lisbon introduced a mutual defence clause. If any EU country were invaded, the other member states have a legal obligation to assist it. The case could be made then, that Ireland is already in a military alliance. Indeed, one of the forebears of the EEC was the European Defence Community. European integration has had military goals from the beginning.7
It was for exactly this sort of concern that Ireland vetoed the Lisbon Treaty when it was first put to referendum in 2008. Ireland is the only country in the EU that requires a plebiscite to approve major treaties, meaning that the Irish public can unilaterally veto reforms to a bloc in which it represents about 1% of the population.
The Lisbon Treaty passed on the second attempt, after some additional assurances were given about Irish neutrality. Ireland would not be obligated to provide military aid, if another member state were invaded. But… money is fungible! If Ireland and other countries are paying into a mutual defence fund, it is meaningless to say that the ‘Irish euros’ weren’t used for military purposes while the ‘Belgian euros’ were. More recently, Ireland has contributed funds to the European Peace Facility (EPF), launched in March 2021. Originally non-lethal, the EPF only began supplying lethal aid after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ireland’s contributions are given with the proviso that they can only be used for non-lethal aid – although some of the items purchased by Ireland through the EPF for Ukraine straddle the boundary of ‘lethal’, like body armour and fuel.
As with the American use of Shannon, the benefits of European integration are too enormous for Ireland to turn down. Whatever reservations successive governments have had about undermining neutrality, they have mostly been willing to brush those concerns to the side.
The crown jewels of Irish foreign policy
This essay might be construed as fairly negative on Irish neutrality. It has historically been an opportunistic fluke. But there are two fascinating cases in which Irish neutrality was used to great effect.
The first triumph was Frank Aiken’s role in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (or NPT). The NPT was first introduced to the United Nations in 1958 by Aiken, who was Minister for External Affairs for de Valera’s government.
It’s worth remembering that Ireland had only joined the United Nations in 1955, after its application had been repeatedly vetoed by the Soviet Union. For a major treaty in nuclear disarmament to be launched by an Irishman only three years into his country’s membership was a truly stunning development. Also, Aiken had formerly been the chief of staff of the IRA. It’s highly misleading to consider the IRA in all its historical forms to even be the same organisation as the modern IRA – but still, what a career trajectory!8
(Gallagher, having gained some credibility by this point, blows it apart by repeating the urban legend that Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on the desk out of anger in the UN General Assembly. Tension was certainly running high; Khrushchev did bang his fist against the podium, but not a shoe.)
The second triumph was Ireland’s distribution of food aid after the Second World War. Like with the First World War, insecure distribution and the collapse of the defeated governments threatened to create a famine in Europe. In another one of the twentieth century’s most surreal moments, much of the food aid to Europe was managed by former president Herbert Hoover, called out of retirement for the occasion. Hoover previously managed American aid after the First World War – and his first step was to defame, defraud, and otherwise destroy any competitors who might distribute aid instead.
In any case, much of the aid provided after the war by the Allies was distributed according to political expediency, not humanitarian need. America didn’t even start providing food to the Soviet occupation zone of Germany until 1947, and the Marshall Plan did not begin until 1948. At this time, Ireland used its neutrality to distribute aid to any country, regardless of whether they were on the losing side.
As far as I am concerned, Aiken’s involvement with the NPT and food aid are two of the crown jewels of Irish foreign policy – and they have both been almost entirely forgotten.
Could Ireland be truly neutral, even if it wanted to?
Ireland has nowhere near the capacity or political will to be militarily independent. Currently, Ireland doesn’t even have the capacity to patrol its own waters and airspace. Further, much of the Irish western seaboard is patrolled by the British Navy. It’s also recently come to light that the British and Irish governments have long had a semi-official understanding in which Britain is occasionally responsible for patrolling Irish airspace. The details of this are unclear, but various wink-wink nod-nod agreements around defence seem to go farther back than the public had realised until recent years.
In January 2022, the Russian navy engaged in training exercises for the invasion of Ukraine in Irish waters. The Irish Navy wasn’t able to properly respond due to staff shortages. These drills also took place above some of the most important undersea cables in the world (undersea cables have lots of redundancies built in; Russian interference was more likely to be for the purpose of surveillance). This was not technically illegal: the Russian drills were within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but outside its territorial waters. The Russian ships eventually left the Irish EEZ, after fishermen sailed over to peacefully disrupt the exercises.
The concept of a few fishermen from Cork disrupting the mighty Russian navy got quite a bit of international media attention at the time. As one of the fishermen involved told CNN: “I didn’t think that little old us… would have an impact on international diplomacy.” But, likely, this was exactly the message the Russians wanted to send. Requiring civilian fishing boats to get another country’s navy out of your waters made Ireland look weak and incompetent. Russian warships entered Irish waters again in August 2022.
Debating Irish neutrality is part and parcel of debating what the Irish Defence Forces are even for. Ireland spends a pitiful 0.3% of GDP on defence, compared to the 2% of GDP that NATO members are obliged to spend (Austria spends proportionately twice as much, and Switzerland three times as much). Among other problems, if Ireland ever wanted to join NATO, it’s not clear that it would be politically possible to raise the money to do so.
Some countries don’t have an army and it suits them just fine, like Costa Rica. But Costa Rica isn’t neutral: it’s in a defensive alliance with the United States (the Rio Pact).
Nobody is under any illusions about the ability of the Irish Defence Forces to actually defend Ireland from invasion. Frankly, that was never on the cards. One of the things the IDF clearly is for is United Nations peacekeeping. But Ireland’s involvement in peacekeeping has been limited by the ‘triple lock’, a previously fairly obscure procedure which states that for Ireland to commit more than 12 troops to a UN mission requires a UN resolution, approval from the cabinet, and approval from the Dáil as a whole. In the wake of the war in Ukraine, there is now fairly wide political consensus on the need to update the triple lock. Under the current system, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (including China and Russia) have a veto on Irish military engagements of more than 12 individuals, which is difficult to stomach. The ‘triple’ part of triple lock is largely political window dressing: the challenging part is getting a UN mandate.
Another issue on which there is reasonably wide political consensus is the necessity of additional funding to keep the IDF’s equipment up to a certain minimum standard. The navy in particular is in a dismal state: it has fewer members than the minimum number it is legally allowed to have. Since 2020, it has shrunk from having nine ships to having four active ships. When a naval ship stopped near my house recently, I sent a photograph to a few friends with the caption “Behold, a quarter of the Irish navy”. They were gobsmacked to learn I wasn’t joking.
Neutrality is under-theorised
The case for neutrality seems self-evident. The world has far too many wars. They are bloody, awful, costly, and rarely, if ever, make the world a better place. But that is just an argument against unjust wars. One argument for neutrality per se is as a commitment device. If you bind yourself to the mast and ensure your country is neutral, it will be much harder to mobilise around fighting if any future mania takes hold of your country and convinces people that going to war is a good idea.
A second argument for neutrality is that it allows countries to act as international brokers for peace. Whatever the ethics of neutrality at the time, one upside of Irish neutrality in ‘the Emergency’ is that it was a form of costly signalling which proved that Irish commitment to neutrality was genuine: “If we’ll sit out World War II, we’ll sit out just about anything.” This gives Ireland an opportunity to act as an international broker for peace among unfriendly nations. I’m not aware of any evidence that this was the motive for neutrality during the Emergency, but it might be a positive side effect.
Except, it’s not clear that it works like that in practice. Ireland’s record in facilitating international peace is fairly unimpressive.9 It remains to be seen how Finland and Sweden’s joining NATO affects their status as countries that can be trusted to facilitate talks and agreements. One of the most significant summits of the Cold War took place in Reykjavík, despite Iceland being a founding member of NATO. The Oslo Accords were a major agreement in the Israel-Palestine peace process, despite Norway also being in NATO. Indeed, Ireland has not been involved in any arbitration between Israel and the PLO – essentially because the Israelis believe Ireland is too sympathetic to Palestine. Despite the fact that Ireland has been more strictly neutral than the Nordics, they have been the more effective brokers of peace. According to some peacekeepers interviewed in the book, insofar as Ireland has credibility abroad, it is through its status as a former colony, rather than its neutrality.
Neutrality has long been a sacred cow in Ireland, but the war in Ukraine appears to be changing that. In March 2022, 37% of Irish people were in favour of joining NATO. A poll in August 2022 put support for the idea at 52%. More recently, support appears to have dropped back down to 34% (One of the lessons that should be taken from this is that Ireland is not at the frontier of polling methodology.) Broadly speaking, neutrality is extremely popular in Ireland – if not an outright point of national pride. The government’s arguments for why their current policies don't violate it are frankly Jesuitical.
Various lines have been approached and crossed by the Irish government since the War in Ukraine began. Irish soldiers have been teaching Ukrainians bomb disposal. Most recently, members of the IDF have started training them in marksmanship. Teaching people how to shoot is an odd sort of non-military assistance indeed.
To use another piece of overwrought vocabulary, Irish neutrality is above all else under-theorised. We reached our current position through one fluke after another. Ireland is blessed with good geography and terrific relations with other members of the Western Alliance. So far, we have been able to afford to not think this through.
Neutrality and sovereignty have traditionally been sacred values of the Irish political left. A cynical view is that Ireland has had semi-sovereignty, in which the independence that it fought so hard for has been de facto given up due to pure incompetence and expediency. My favourite example of this is that Ireland had no domestic facilities for minting coins until 1978. A “free and independent” Ireland had been importing all its money from England for over fifty years.
It would not be crazy for Ireland to join NATO. Nor would it be crazy to double down on neutrality and fully commit to the required investment. But what is fairly crazy is maintaining the historical myth of Irish neutrality, while insisting upon multiple contradictory goals: Ireland should be neutral, but sovereign, but somehow not spend any more money, all the while providing training and money to allies in armed conflicts.
It’s been remarked upon many times that one of the most developed abilities of the Irish people is our immense capacity for doublethink. Ireland can be Costa Rica, or it can be Switzerland – but it can’t be both.
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Featured image source.
I do not understand by what accounting Gallagher reaches the figure of there only being two EU neutrals, on page 7.
This was in marked contrast with the Spanish Civil War, when the government made it illegal for Irish people to fight for either side. This was perhaps the last time Ireland was truly neutral in any global conflict.
Throughout the war, British planes were also permitted to furtively fly over a narrow strip of Donegal.
The Irish do still get berated about this; just a few days ago, the incident was brought up during the Tánaiste’s (deputy prime minister) visit to Israel. In a typo simply too Freudian not to mention, the press statement about the trip said that the Tánaiste would be discussing “Ireland’s strong commitment to anti-Semitism”.
The views of the Falkland Islanders would come to be known in quite an amusing way over thirty years later. In a 2013 referendum on whether the Falklands should stay part of the UK or join Argentina, three people voted to become Argentinians. Not three percent. Literally three people.
Gallagher fails to add a footnote here and I can’t find his source. The three million figure has been widely repeated. The figure was raised in a Dáil debate in 2020, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs did not deny it. I personally suspect that there have been three million instances of American troops passing through Shannon, not three million actual people, and that this subtlety was lost at some point. But that is a conjecture, and if anyone has more information on this, please let me know.
The EDC was killed by the French National Assembly in ‘54.
Seán MacBride, who we met earlier in the context of Ireland being asked to join NATO, was also chief of staff for the IRA. Along with Linus Pauling, he is the only person in history to have had a Nobel Peace Prize and a Lenin Peace Prize.