Irish pro-neutrality group seeks partners in campaign against Constitution


November 2004

by Roger Cole.

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) was established to advocate an independent Irish foreign policy, Irish neutrality and a reformed United Nations.

PANA was set up because the Republic of Ireland was being integrated into US/EU military industrial structures through the militarisation of the European Union and a move towards NATO membership via Irish membership of the Partnership for Peace. The six counties of Northern Ireland are already in NATO, so these developments would consolidate the integration of the whole of Ireland into the established EU/US military structures.

A number of people in 1996 with a background in the Irish peace movement decided that there was a need for a broad based alliance that would oppose these developments by focusing on militarisation, the weakest link in the integration process, and advocate an alternative future to that on offer from the Irish political elite. Over thirty groups are now affiliated to PANA. Our objective is to ensure the establishment of an all- Ireland Republic, with a government implementing its own foreign policy, outside any military alliances, and pursuing that policy through a reformed United Nations in which the Security Council, instead of being dominated by the victors of the Second World War, would be genuinely inclusive and representative of the world’s states.

However, what is happening in Ireland cannot be examined without first outlining the global context in which Irish independence and democracy are being destroyed.

The background to the attack on Irish independence, neutrality and democracy has been the steady rise in power of the neo-liberal ideology of many of the global corporations throughout the world, especially in the western states, and the belief of a significant section of them that the decline in oil stocks would need, in order to ensure their continuing wealth and power, the development and sustaining of military capitalism and the restoration of direct imperial domination. Ireland was being integrated into their economic structures, so it was inevitable that in due course they would seek to integrate Ireland into their military structures as well.

The effects of the growing power of corporations on the world, especially its poorer people and nations, have been stark.

  • The total export debt of developing countries rose from $90 million in 1970 to $2,000 billion in 1998.
  • 2.8 billion of the world’s poor live on less than $2 a day.
  • 1.2 billion of the worlds 6 billion people live on less than $1 a day.
  • 30-35,000 children die every day from preventable diseases.
  • The gap between the richest 20% of the world’s population and the poorest 20% has doubled over the last 40 years.
  • The assets of the world’s top 3 billionaires exceed the GNP of all the population’s of the least developed countries, which have a total population of 600 million.
  • 80% of the world’s income goes to the top 20% of the world’s population.
  • 60% of the world’s population has only 6% of the world’s income.
  • 51 of the largest 100 economic global entities are corporations.
  • $1.5 trillion is traded every day in foreign exchanges.
  • Basic food and raw material prices, the staple income for the majority world, fell by 50% in real terms in the last 20 years.

Russia - a state that, encouraged by the US Treasury Department and the International Monetary Fund, adopted neo-liberalism - saw its industrial production fall by 60% between 1990 and 1999 and the percentage of its people living in poverty (defined as those living on less than $2 a day) rise from 2% to 24%, with a further 40% living on $4 a day.

Through organizations like the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, and the European Round Table, the global neo-liberal elite work together, not in any conspiratorial way, but by and large in an open confident manner, using their domination of the mass media to maintain their control - every Irish newspaper, for example, supported the Irish government's decision to destroy Irish neutrality. They know that neo-liberalism has made them rich and powerful. They believe that war, especially an atmosphere of fear generated by permanent war, consolidates their wealth and power.

Bush, Blair, Ahern and Co have nothing to learn from Orwell. They are aware that conflicting ideologies are necessary to ensure the justification for the massive military expenditure that provides the backbone of the American Empire and the aspiring EU Empire. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, they - especially that section of the corporate elite involved in arms production - needed a new enemy. They found it in what they now call Muslim Fundamentalism and the so-called war on terrorism, which provides the justification for the destruction of international law, for institutionalized and systematic torture, and for the erosion of civil liberties. Samuel P. Huntington’s book, The Clash of Civilizations, provided the intellectual justification. The concept that there is a Judaeo/Christian civilization which is superior to the Muslim civilization, and that war was inevitable between these two civilizations, was just what the US/EU arms industry corporations wanted to hear.

If the US/EU really wanted peace they would leave Iraq and Afghanistan and impose sanctions on Israel until it withdraws to its 1967 borders. In fact, the EU states and the US support Israel, the latest example being their opposition to the role of the International Court of Justice on the issue of the legality in international law of the Israeli wall. Those states that voted against the ICJ’s issuing an advisory opinion included Ireland, Israel, the USA, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Those in favour included the Palestinian Authority, Cuba, Indonesia, South Africa and the Arab League.


That is not to say that Muslim Fundamentalism does not exist - it does, just as does Christian Fundamentalism or Hindu Fundamentalism. Neither is it surprising that many millions of the oppressed people of the world will seek in Muslim Fundamentalism an answer to their oppression, especially since the leaders of Western Imperialism like Bush and Blair and Ahern, who are largely responsible for their oppression, are Christian Fundamentalists and much of their popular support base is explicitly based on mobilising Christian Fundamentalism.

In Ireland, where the exploitation of religious hate and fear by Unionism has played such a key role in our domination by imperialism, Irish Republicans have long experienced the power of religious bigotry and the use of that power by the rich to divide the people so they stay rich. We should, like Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen in a previous generation, reject any role for religious fundamentalism in the struggle against imperialism.

However, it is in the US that military capitalism is concentrated, and where the use and abuse of Christian Fundamentalism is strongest, and where with such power mobilised it is an integral part of the ideology by which the elite retain their wealth.

The American Empire is the power centre of the neo-liberal corporate elite. This elite’s power in that state is virtually absolute. Its domination of the American people themselves can be seen in the following facts:

  • 13% of American companies in the US no longer offer paid leave, an increase of 5% from 1997
  • 25% of workers in the United States no longer take an annual holiday.
  • Of those that do, they typically receive 8 days after one year and 10 days after 3 years.
  • Only 13% of workers in the US are unionized.
  • The ratio of the annual income of US Chief Executives to the average worker's annual income increased from 42 times in 1980 to 500 in 2000.
  • 43 million Americans have no insured access to health care.
  • American political parties will spend $1.3 billion on advertising in 2004.
  • Forty-seven million Americans work for less than $10 an hour.

Yet it is also these facts that are providing the backbone to a major challenge to the corporate elite within the US. The anti-globalisation demonstrations in Seattle were a major turning point in the struggle against imperialism. The growth of the Internet, especially in the US, has massively undermined the power of the corporate information giants of Fox, CNN etc. If the printing press led to a transformation in culture and politics then the Internet is having an even more powerful effect. For example, the net provides the mechanism by which Howard Dean, a leading anti-war candidate, propelled the anti-war issue centre stage; it ensured the success of Michael Moore’s book, Stupid White Men and his recent film, Fahrenheit 9/11; it has spawned a growing number of websites, such as z net, which are replacing the establishment media as the real source of information, providing a cheap and effective method for those opposed to the neo-liberal elite to build a coalition against its power.

The power of imperialism within the US, however, cannot be underestimated. Ralph Nader, the most prominent Presidential candidate calling for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, won the support of only a tiny fragment of the electorate. Many progressives clearly believed that defeating Bush was a priority and in effect joined the Democratic Party coalition.

Kerry was selected as the Democratic candidate in the Presidential election this year and the coalition he built reflects the successful fight back by progressive political forces in the United States. Kerry is a supporter of neo-liberalism, but in the context of the US, a Kerry victory would have been a defeat for Bush and his version of military capitalism.

While Kerry’s selection was a defeat for the American anti-war movement, it is really a reflection of the fact that not all corporations have an absolute commitment to war capitalism. Many of them are in sectors such as entertainment where having the rest of the people of the world hating America is not good for business. CEOs of these corporations would rather make money than die for George W. Bush. The fact that last year the figures show that US corporations invested more money in France than in previous years provides evidence that many did not buy into the anti-French hysteria of the right wing US media.

That large sections of capital in the US, and even more strongly in other regions such as South East Asia, regions which have done well out of globalisation largely by ignoring the harsher neo-liberal solutions of the IMF, do not support Bush, is indicated by a recent poll of global fund managers who control $940 billion. The majority thought Kerry would win, although the British and US managers believed that Bush would win. The reality is that large sections of capital believe war causes instability, such as huge increases in oil prices, and is not good for business.

Also, many people in the elite are aware that the US, with only 4% of the world’s population. is not as strong economically as it once was as these figures show:

  • In 1950 the US supplied 50% of the world’s gross product. This figure is now 21%.
  • In 1950 the US was responsible for 60% of manufacturing production - now 25%.
  • Of the top 100 corporations ranked by foreign-held assets, only 25 are American.
  • In 1960, 47% of the world’s stock of direct investment in other countries was American. It is now 21%.
  • In global finance, in 1981, 67% of private savings in the world was American. It is now 40%.

In 1971 the US had a deficit in its trade in goods for the first time in 78 years. To date the deficits were offset by trade in services and borrowings. But by 2002 the US was borrowing $503 billion from abroad - 4.5% of GDP - and by 2003, foreigners owned 41% of US treasury marketable debt.

The federal budget surpluses of the period 1998-2001 are now projected to turn into budget deficits of $450 billion for 2004-6. The federal government is slashing spending on education, health, transport, etc. Only the military industrial complex is receiving state investments. Federal aid to state government is being cut, and state governments now face deficits of $65-85 billion leading to deeper cuts in local expenditure on everything from public safety to libraries.

In short, the American Empire no longer has the economic power to sustain its military domination of the globe. Like all previous Empires, it’s due for a fall. It will be defeated in Iraq, as it was in Vietnam, and the sooner the better.

There is even very strong opposition to Bush from within the heart of US power structures. Richard Clarke, a central figure within the US state, put the anti-Bush case very well when he said invading Iraq after 9/11 was like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbour.

It is true that Kerry supported the conquest of Iraq, and that the coalitions that make up the Democratic and the Republican Parties are similar. But they are not the same. Clinton was better for the world - especially Ireland - and Kerry, warts and all, would have been better than Bush. A Kerry victory would have been a victory for all those forces opposed to war capitalism. A Bush victory could mean an attempted military conquest of Cuba, Iran and any other state that opposes the rule of the American Empire.

The peace movement coalitions throughout the world ensure that their states do not send troops to Iraq. The reality is that the economic figures show that on its own American Imperialism has only defeat to look forward to and that without global support the American Empire is finished - whoever leads it.

In short, the global progressive forces need to agree to be part of the coalition that brings together as broad an alliance as possible, including corporations that do not support Bush, to isolate the war capitalists and force a withdrawal the US army from Iraq.

After the US withdrawal, there could be a role for a peacekeeping force directly under the auspices of the United Nations, which could play a similar role to that which it did in East Timor after the withdrawal of the Indonesian army of occupation. The credibility of the UN has suffered by its decision to endorse the illegal conquest of Iraq. A reformed United Nations, reflective of the 21st century, rather than the mid 20th, is needed to create global governance. A global institution is what is required if we are to achieve global peace and security. A regional grouping, such as the EU/US bloc, will not provide security. It provides only instability, as other regional groups are formed to act as counterweights. Any lasting peace must be based on the concept of inclusive and agreed global institutions.

It is this process of global coalition building that is central to the defeat of war capitalism.

When Bush visited Ireland during his election campaign, PANA helped to organise major demonstrations against him. In this globalised world, the outcome of the election in the US will have a profound effect on the rest of the world, including Ireland, and it was important to Americans, especially Irish Americans, to see that unlike Clinton, Bush was not welcome here - except by the Irish elite.

Our purpose in the longer term (say 12 years) in Ireland is to ensure the formation of a government in an all-Ireland Republic committed to Irish independence, neutrality and democracy. We seek to ensure that this Irish Republic would be part of an EU which would be a partnership of democratic states, legal equals, without a military dimension. That objective is worthwhile only if it is part of a struggle for global justice and democracy.

It is necessary to develop an alternative to the institutionalized war economy now on offer from the neo-liberal elite, not just in Ireland, but also globally, by linking up with similar organizations throughout the world. The elite’s vision is global, and if its vision is to be defeated, then our vision has also to be global. The massive demonstrations of over 15 million people that took place on 15 February 2003 throughout the world, were the first indication of the potential of our future, the first indication of their weakness, the first indication of our capacity to win.

PANA was one the groups that helped to organise the 125,000-strong march in Dublin. It was a real indication of the potential for building an alternative political coalition throughout Ireland that would defeat Ahern and the rest of the Irish war capitalists. Before the march, PANA had also played a role in gaining a 38% No vote to the Amsterdam Treaty, a 54% no vote to Nice 1 and a 38% no vote to Nice 2 Treaties - treaties which in every case were steps towards integrating Ireland into the EU/US military structures.

On 11 June 2004, Fianna Fail suffered its worst electoral defeat since the 1920s. The Fianna Fail/PD government suffered a hammer blow. They have lost control of local councils throughout the country and have only 4 MEPS in the European Parliament. Even more important, the political parties that led the opposition to the Fianna Fail decision to support the imperial conquest of Iraq - the Green Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Fein, as well as radical independents - overall increased their vote.

Our short tem objective is to build an alliance so that:

  • An Irish Government in the 26 county Republic that would be committed to adding a Protocol to the proposed EU Constitution, similar to that achieved by Denmark that would exclude Ireland from involvement with the ERRP,
  • Enshrine Irish neutrality into our Constitution
  • Withdraw from the PfP
  • Focus on a reformed UN as the institution through which Ireland would pursue its security concerns.
  • Terminate the use of Shannon airport by the US and its allies.

The first campaign fought by the Peace & Neutrality Alliance was the Amsterdam Treaty referendum held at the same time as the Good Friday Agreement. Both referendums played a significant role in the process towards achieving our objective. For while the elite saw the Agreement as an end in itself, a defeat for Irish Republicanism, and a mechanism for drawing Republicans into supporting the EU/US military structures, the rise of the No vote to the Amsterdam Treaty together with the result of the Good Friday Agreement, instead strongly indicated a growth in support for Irish independence, in the desire for structures that would deliver, peacefully and democratically, an independent and united Irish Republic. This growth of support among the people for National independence and democracy increased in subsequent referendums.

Amsterdam marked a decisive shift towards Irish independence and while we went on to win Nice 1 and lose Nice 2 it created new plateau of 37/38% electoral support for anti-imperialists, and it was one in which the issues of Irish neutrality, Independence and democracy rather than religious divisions which were central to the debate on the future.

Now we are not only to have another referendum on the EU Constitution, but for the first time there will be a referendum in all 32 counties, and hopefully at the same time.

The EU Constitution creates the legal framework for the creation of an Imperial nuclear armed, neo-liberal, centralized superstate. The EU Constitution, rather than our own Constitution will be the "fountainhead of all law", and the European Court of Justice rather than the Irish Supreme Court will the final arbiter in interpreting the EU Constitution. To date, as each of the EU Treaties were ratified, only the provisions of those treaties became part of the Irish Constitution. This EU Constitution is a completely different concept. The EU itself, as a distinct entity, acquires legal personality. The EU itself, rather than the member states will be the sovereign legal authority via the EU Constitution.

The proposed EU Constitution will create an EU with a strong military dimension, closely aligned with a nuclear military bloc (NATO) and committed to increased military expenditure and support for the arms industry.

It takes several giant steps towards a fully-fledged military alliance, armed not just with a military capacity, but also wit mutual solidarity commitments, all within the structures of the European Union.

It legalizes the transfer of power from, not only the Irish people, but also all the peoples of Europe to an EU political elite. An EU elite that makes decisions in secret in the EU Commission and at meetings of the Council of Ministers. An EU elite that is building its own distinct army via the European Rapid Reaction Force. It is why they support it. It is why all democrats in Ireland and throughout the EU should oppose it.

The EU Constitution is another Act of Union. It destroys the legal basis for Irish national independence in the same way the Act of Union with the British Empire did at the end of the 18th century. It is the European Union, rather than the British Union, which is now the main opponent of Irish independence and democracy.

However, just as the Act of Union did not destroy the desire for Irish National Independence, neither will the EU Constitution. It is merely another battle between Irish people that support Irish independence, Irish democracy and neutrality on one side and Irish people that support imperialism on the other, another battle in a conflict that has raged for generation after generation, and will continue no matter who wins the referendum on the EU Constitution.

Our objective is to defeat the EU Constitution, while accepting that some affiliates are still discussing their attitude to it. Since the latest MRBI survey showed that 51% of the people in the 26 county Republic want more independence from the EU and since the vast majority of the people living in the 6 counties support parties that have declared their opposition to the EU Constitution, then a victory, as in Nice 1, a decisive no vote in all Ireland referendum, is a perfectly reasonable and achievable objective.

We need to continue to build a broad alliance of all those progressive forces, including those sections of business, which do not have a vested interest in war. Such an alliance, like in the US should be based on progressive and inclusive values. There is no doubt that there are political forces that oppose the EU from a reactionary perspective, political groups that seek to stir up religious or racial hatred and division in opposition to the emerging EU Empire. political forces that look back and seek inspiration from old imperial values. Any coalition in which we participate will have no role for reactionary elements.

However, we have to accept that many of those who will be supporting those opposing the Empire from a reactionary position are our potential allies. Unionists might see they are supporting a British state that, like the 26 county state, is to become only a small part of a European Empire for which they are, no more than Irish Republicans, willing to die. The British Union, a state to which they give their allegiance, is ceasing to exist. In that context, a united independent Irish Republic in which they would be 12% of the electorate could become a more attractive alternative than an European Imperial state, where the Irish will be the cannon fodder, in Iraq and elsewhere, for the EU/US elite.

In Ireland PANA has co-operated with two other broad based alliances, the NGOPA and the IAWM both of which, like PANA, reject religious or racial hatred. It was this broad-based alliance and all the groups affiliated which provided the leadership to opposing the conquest of Iraq. PANA would seek to ensure that a similar broad-based alliance could be built by in the first instance gaining support from these groups for opposition the militarisation of the EU, which means opposing the EU Constitution, a Constitution which would bind Ireland into supporting the progressive framing of a EU defence compatible with NATO’s defence policy, more arms production and appoints an EU Foreign Minister.

We need continually to point out that the concept that the EU can develop as an alternative centre of power to the US is not a realistic option. Even if it were, it’s not an option for any progressive forces in Ireland or any other EU state. If history teaches us anything, it is that there is no such thing as a "good Empire". One can be better than the other, as there is no doubt that the 3rd German Empire under Hitler was worse than the American Empire under Roosevelt, but they both remained Empires and the victims of Hiroshima would not have appreciated any great distinction.

An EU State which includes states such as Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Spain, each of which has such strong imperial traditions, cannot but be tempted to revive those imperial traditions. It could be a case of "Empires, united, Shall never be defeated".

Since the EU leaders have just elected as President of the European Commission José Barroso, a strong supporter of the imperial war in Iraq and a hard line neo-liberal, and since he has in turn appointed neo-liberals to the three economic portfolios and is a strong supporter of the US/EU alliance, there is no evidence that the majority of the EU elite wants to oppose US Imperialism. The fact that the EU states Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia have troops in Iraq supporting the US occupation shows that there is ample evidence that a majority of the EU elite now support imperialism and neo-liberalism and collaboration with, rather than opposition to, American imperialism.

This is not to say we should not recognize that EU is not the US. The political forces that seek to develop social market capitalism as distinct from the neo-liberal version are much stronger in the EU than it is in the US. We should recognize that many political activists involved in seeking woman’s rights, as well as trade union and environmental activists are well disposed to the EU, which they see as having been for some time supportive. We also should recognize that the imperialist governments in Europe do not have the support of their peoples. It is not just PANA that opposes the EU imperialist project.

We need to make it clear that we support environmentalists, trade unionists and woman’s rights activists. We have to make it clear that we believe these rights are best protected and developed by promoting Irish democracy, rather than by destroying it. We have to make it clear that environmental rights, trade union rights, women’s rights, civil rights, will be destroyed if they support the institutionalization of EU militarism and if this EU Constitution is accepted. The neo-liberal imperialist agenda of the EU is no friend of democratic rights.

We need to build an opposition alliance to the militarisation of the EU via this Constitution by building up links with similar groups throughout Europe. PANA is already affiliated to TEAM (the European Anti-Maastricht Movement) and the European Peace & Human Rights Network. Our slogans in the campaign are, Yes to Europe-No to Superstate, as well as, Support Irish Neutrality, Democracy and Independence. To PANA, the European Union should be a partnership of independent democratic states, legal equals, with no military dimension. To advocate such a vision of Europe is to be truly European, but on the basis of a Europeanism that rejects the imperial traditions of many of Europe’s states.

A victory would mean that a different future for the European Union is possible. If we can successfully be part of a EU coalition that has rejected militarisation and imperialism then we can help build an alternative future for Europe, we can become part of the dominant pro-European political alliance.

Roger Cole is Chair of the Peace & Neutrality Alliance. This article is an updated and edited version of a speech that he gave to the Desmond Greaves Summer School in Dublin in August 2004. PANA would like to hear from any groups in Europe who would be interesting in co-operating with them in a campaign against the proposed constitution. Write to, or find out more about PANA