We need peace leaders, not political leaders

De Facto

NO ONE SHOUTED PEACE Micheál Martin must loudly defend Ireland’s neutrality and push for peaceful negotiations in world conflicts. Pic: Fianna Fáil

We must resist military alignment, regardless of what Europe wants

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

Many countries have responded most positively to Ukrainian people fleeing the war with Russia. They have stepped up to the plate, offering shelter and support. It is most inspiring, especially as we are currently in a post-Christian phase in this country and throughout Europe.
Ireland, once deemed the Island of Saints and Scholars, can no longer stake such a claim. History will show that, in a real way, Irish missionaries helped lead the way in spreading the Christian message many parts of the world. Several European cities and countries still celebrate their Irish missionary ancestry.  
Down native St Columbanus, for example, is long associated with Lixeuil in France and Bobbio in Italy, just two of the places he founded monasteries. St Colmcille, from Derry, is largely associated with Iona off Scotland (and other islands), where the Book of Kells was reportedly started. St Gall, a companion of Columbanus, gives his name to St Gallen, a canton and city in Switzerland that also boasts St Gallen Cathedral where over 400 Irish manuscripts and musical works are contained. St Pirmin is linked with Reichenau monastery, located on an island in Lake Constance, which straddles the borders of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Many treasures from the monastery are preserved in Karlsruhe Library. St Virgil, better known to us as Fergal, followed St Rupert to Salzburg in Austria.
There are many more who travelled over centuries bringing faith to developing lands. Their work is part of the foundation stone of modern Europe. Oh, that we had such people around today! While Church relevance has all but disappeared, politics is the new ‘religion’.
Unfortunately, for us and most people across Europe, there are few leaders among the political class. With ongoing conflict in Ukraine all we hear is news of further arms shipments and more modern weaponry.
Many Western countries now find they have to ‘re-weaponise’ after their commitments to Ukraine. It means that the arms industry is working flat out to produce more weapons that are designed to kill humans and destroy infrastructure. Such destruction invariably means ‘collateral damage’ – a war term for human casualties.
Since February, there has been little or no mention of peace talks. The masters of war are dictating the pace, terms and length of this conflict. While here in Ireland we have some claim to being a neutral country, our main ‘opposition’ political parties,  Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, are now dining at the same table. This should smooth any rough edges. Our message should be clear and concise – we do not need or want a military alignment, regardless of what Europe wants.
Why can’t our politicians take a stand and become leaders? Ireland has a place (at present) on the UN Security Council. Why is Micheál Martin not shouting peace? Why is Simon Coveney not using his position to make a difference, to bring peace? We have an impeccable record of being peacemakers through Irish Army involvement at UN level. Why can’t our politicians beat a path to peace? Why must they always sound like European echoes, hinting at NATO membership, dropping doubts about our neutrality and constantly undermining our national position?
Europe wants to be a ‘master of war’ but it’s time this nonsense stopped. Ireland has a very strong voice, if only we had people with the willingness, courage and nerve to stand up and be counted as leaders for peace. We have a great history of leadership and courage through missionaries. While faith is no longer a fashionable reason to speak up then let the good of society, the common good, be the reason. War is not good for society. It only makes warmongers richer.
Our neutrality cannot be clouded because we are part of the EU. We are not part of NATO and supporting the Partnership for Peace is the slippery slope. We’ll end up with the ‘I smoke but don’t inhale’ argument.
Thanks to the Lisbon Treaty member states are obliged to align their policies with NATO through the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. Military assimilation is happening under our noses, without our permission. Ireland can still be a peace leader. Let’s hear it Micheál Martin.