Some groups on the NO side express concerns for our Neutrality insomuch that it will be virtually eroded by the reformed terms of the Lisbon Treaty which they argue is a mere re-packaging of the European Constitution which failed a few years back in referenda in France and the Netherlands. Incidentally that Constitutional document was brokered by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern during our most recent Presidency of the Union. So I thought as part of the public service remit of this column (ahem!) that I would bring you a short history on Irish Neutrality so as to give an informed context to the debate.

Neuter is a Latin word meaning ‘neither’. The essence of neutrality is not being involved in wars between other states. A state whose neutrality is legally recognised has a right to have its integrity respected by the warring states. It in turn must perform certain primary neutrality duties: It must deny the use of its national territory (including airspace and territorial waters), by force if necessary, to all belligerents, it must give no support to belligerents although normal trade may continue; it must apply impartially the rules of neutrality under international law.

Neutrality is pursued by a small number of states in Europe. Apart from Ireland, the other European neutrals are Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Finland. However, about a hundred states throughout the world, including India and Egypt sought to hold themselves aloof from the erstwhile struggle of the former superpowers, ( a struggle that has seen somewhat of a re-emergence in recent times due in no small part to the control of vast energy resources). Generally these countries had followed a policy of non-alignment and many belong to the Non-Aligned Movement started in 1961.

Irish Neutrality

Irish neutrality has its roots in the desire of Irish nationalists to assert Ireland’s separateness from Britain. This goes back to as far as the Boer War – during which most Irish nationalists advocated a de jure neutrality ( although some, like Major John McBride, fought on the boer side). However, during World War I many nationalists fought alongside the British in defence of the ‘rights of small nations’. Others subscribed to neutrality under the slogan ‘Neither King nor Kaiser. The British proposal in 1918 to impose conscription on Ireland, was massively rejected here and consolidated the neutralist position of Irish Nationalists. Under the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1921 (the treaty), a number of key naval facilities were retained by the British which made any credible policy of neutrality impossible. Irish politicians of all parties subsequently aspired to disentangle Irish forces from those of Britain. In the 1938 Anglo-Irish Agreement the British withdrew from the ports- Bereheaven, Cobh and Lough Swilly – and Eamonn De Valera thus achieved the sovereignty that allowed him to maintain successfully a policy of neutrality throughout World War II or ‘The Emergency’ as we quaintly called it. Many claim that we were in fact ‘neutral in favour’ of the Allies – de facto as opposed to de jure ach sin sceal eile!

Ireland has maintained its neutrality ever since. It is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Its neutral status has allowed it to play an active peacekeeping role in the United Nations which Ireland joined in 1955. But a document I read on the subject recently but written 12 years ago or so stated that membership of the European Community(sic) does not involve Ireland in any military commitments but is this statement still valid? Some argue that our neutrality status has being compromised over the years, now being part of the European Defence Agency. Others again we are in a much re-aligned world and that we have responsibilities to the Union to which we belong. Then there are those who say this was to be an Economic Union and not a Political one and thus argue that latter proposition is the real agenda behind the Lisbon Treat. Recently I heard a discussion which spoke of the US being opposed/feeling threatened by the rise of the new Superpower of the European Union. In that new world can we remain neutral or semi-detached? Don’t forget the Big Lisbon Debate at the Central Library this Wednesday 6.30pm.

– the Words We Use

Remember the fun we had waxing lyrical with sincerity? Well what about the word Sabotage which is most interesting. Sabotage is a term of French origin coined during the railway strike of 1910, when workers destroyed the wooden shoes, or sabots, that held rails in place, thus impeding the morning commute. An alternate definition pretends the word to be older by almost a century, the times of Industrial Revolution It is said that powered looms could be damaged by angry or disgruntled workers throwing their wooden shoes or clogs(known in French as sabots, (hence the term Sabotage) into the machinery, effectively clogging the machinery, touch of the Luddite movement there. Another one is that revolting peasants would trample the landlord’s wheat field wearing their sabots to exact revenge for one thing or another. Others contend that the word comes from the slang name for people living in rural areas who wore wooden shoes after city dwellers had begun wearing leather shoes; when employers wanted strike breakers they would import ‘sabots’/rural workers to replace the strikers. Not used to machine-driven- labour the ‘sabots’ worked poorly and slowly. The strikers would be called back to work (with demands won) and, could win demands on the job by working like their country cousins – the sabots. Thus ‘sabotage’. Will a negative vote in Lisbon sabotage our standing in Europe?

Join a club

Join a club or two at Ardkeen Library for fun and friends. We brought you a comprehensive report on our sterling local library service at Ardkeen some weeks ago but time and space didn’t allow for a listing of the wide range of clubs available for you to join there. So we aim to complete that task today and encourage you to get involved in one or more of these clubs.

Join a Book Club at Ardkeen Library

Names are now being taken to form a new club. Please contact Ardkeen Library at 051 849755 or to register.

Ardkeen Library’s Adult Book Club meets the first Friday of every month at 11.00am. New members are welcome, please leave your name at the library desk.

A New Teenage Book Club is being started at Ardkeen Library so contact the library. The Children’s Book Club meets every three weeks on Thursday afternoons from 3.30pm – 4.30pm. Meeting dates are posted on the noticeboard.

New Warhammer 40,000 Club Ardkeen Library is setting up a Warhammer Club. Now swinging into action – so get in touch, soon.

Get Your Game On!

Nintendo Wii & Playstation 3 Games now Available in Ardkeen Library.

Want to try a Nintendo Wii or Playstation 3 game, but just don’t have the money to rent or buy? Bet you never thought the library would be the place to borrow them free of charge! Well, now it is. Visit Ardkeen Library to view and borrow a selection of the latest Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 games.

Manga / Graphic Novels

Now available from Ardkeen Library

We have a wide range of Manga (Japanese word for comics) series including Naruto, Bleach, Black Cat & Dragon Ball to name but a few. Find out what other favourite Manga titles we have by dropping in to Ardkeen Library.

Graphic Novels From Frank Millers ‘300′, ‘The Sandman’ of Neil Gaiman to the traditional superhero’s of Batman & Superman, there are a wide range of graphic novels to suit all tastes available from Ardkeen Library

Scrabble Club meets every Tuesday afternoon at 2.30pm. All are welcome from novices to veterans.

Parent and Toddler Group meets every Wednesday and Friday morning at 10.30am. All welcome.

Go Seachtain Eile, Slan.