The battle for Irish independence

John Murphy reviews Defending Peace: Ireland’s Role in a Changing Europe, by John Maguire, Cork University Press £8 pbk (15 euros)

THIS BOOK by John Maguire, professor of sociology at University College Cork, is the most important study of Irish foreign policy since the state joined the EEC in 1973. Staying neutral during the 1939-45 world war was a crucial test of the reality of Irish political independence.

As the EEC, then EC, and now EU, attempts to push towards world superpowerdom, with Germany and France aspiring to be in the driving seat, Irish neutrality is the most contested terrain on which the modern battle for Irish independence is being fought.

Maguire shows successive EU treaties -- the Single European Act (1987), Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1998) and Nice (2002) -- have drawn Ireland further towards an imperialist foreign policy course. He also explains why there is such popular resistance to such moves.

The historical roots of Irish neutrality go back to Tone, Connolly, Louie Bennett and De Valera. The hundred thousand Irish people who demonstrated in Dublin against war on Iraq on 15 February -- four times the number originally hoped for by the organisers -- shows how strong that sentiment still is. It has continued to grow since.

Authoritatively, dispassionately, his scholarship animated by a hatred of war and political hypocrisy, John Maguire piles fact on pact to indict the pusillanimity of the Dublin politicians, as they get more and more out of tune with the public on this issue.

This is essential reading for all those interested in modern Ireland over the past thirty years.

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