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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Neutrality and EU Covid Enquiry

"Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is forcing Ireland to rethink its long tradition of military neutrality."

This is not the conjecture of some online theorist, or the fear-mongering of a political radical, but it is a quote from our Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs. Speaking last week he said that public opinion may not be ready but he thought that a citizens’ assembly might take a look at the question with a view to amending the national stance of non-membership of military alliances. This is shocking stuff. Ireland’s military neutrality has its origins in the birth of the State, making it as time-honoured a fixture of our international identity as is possible. That would be a drift towards its erasure, or for it to be steered behind the cover of a foreign conflict is unconscionable.

The vast majority of Irish people correctly hold our neutrality in high esteem and I for one do not want to sit and watch that being cynically undermined by concerted efforts in the service of supernational interests. Some proponents of a more hands-on approach to war may feel as if our neutrality has us sitting on the sidelines when we could be helping. Nothing could be further from the truth. The sustained neutrality of countries such as Ireland allow us to be highly trusted brokers of peace on the international stage and to lead by example in that regard.

In other news, the intense public scrutiny of the European Commission’s deal to purchase up to 1.8 billion Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses is now being matched by official scrutiny. The European Public Prosecutor's Office, EPPO, has confirmed that it has an ongoing investigation into the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines in the EU. The European Court of Auditors has already found that a joint negotiation team was not involved in striking the Pfizer vaccine deal, in direct violation of a previously agreed protocol. Allegations have been levelled at Pfizer’s CEO negotiating the contract through text messages with the Commission’s President, where this will see his product dominate the EU’s vaccine portfolio until the end of 2023. These texts have since been deleted. He must have studied the Irish school of diplomatic politics.

The European Court of Auditors established that Dr. von der Leyen had intervened in early talks with Pfizer and had sidelined the usual negotiating teams to personally hash out a preliminary deal. Further information was sought from the Commission on this but, however, none was forthcoming. We are not expected to hear anything more until the investigators themselves offer more clarity on the matter, or journalists do it for them. Some millions of eyes are now on the European Commission and I am sure that we are all looking forward to what will be seen.

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