Ireland: Where does it stand in terms of its International Role?

Ireland has always had a very interesting role on an international scale. Having a long history of being neutral through wars that ravaged the European continent, it maintains its role abroad in largely peacekeeping missions. But to understand where Ireland stands in modern times, one must understand its international role in a historic context.

Mediaeval History and Ireland’s International Role

Being the third largest island in Europe after Britain and Iceland, Ireland was largely untouched during ancient times. Known as Hibernia, or “the land of the cold” to the Romans, it was a place too cold and barren for them to even consider conquering. The Vikings, however, were successful in conquering Ireland from 795-840 CE. These were the people who later named the city of Dublin. Viking ports were built in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, and Limerick. 

The Anglo – Norman invasions of Ireland were when England first got involved in conquering the emerald Isle. 1169 saw the initial arrival of Anglo – Normal troops under the rule of English king Henry II. This invasion was conducted on behalf of the formerly deposed king of Leinster Diarmait Mac Murchada. 

This backfired and ended up with the King of Leinster and Ireland becoming a figure head and a territory belonging to England. It was this invasion that would spur the series of events that was the struggle for Irish independence from the English for around 900 years. 

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Modern History and Ireland’s International Role

Closer to modern times, Ireland negotiated its independence from the United Kingdom in 1922 after the Irish civil wars. Many were unsatisfied with Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK. 

World Wars I and II saw the neutrality of Ireland. Neutrality however can be a very fine line. Irish men during World War I were eligible to fight for the UK.

Ireland’s Military Today and its International Role

Ireland’s military or the Irish Defence Forces are made up of the Army, Air Corps, Naval Service, and the Reserve Defence Forces. The supreme commander of these forces is usually the acting president of Ireland, in this case Michael D. Higgins. It should be noted that the Irish Minister of Defence usually acts on behalf of the president. 

The Irish Defence Forces describe their mission as being one of peacekeeping and are often used in missions carried out by the United Nations (UN). The Irish Defence Forces peacekeeping mission was in Congo from 1960 to 1964. The defence forces’ peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon are probably the most well known of their missions. 

Ireland’s International Role in the European Union 

Having joined the European Union (EU) in what was then known as the European Economic Community in 1973, Ireland has experienced countless economic and social benefits from the organisation. Many EU citizens can roam freely across borders for work and education.When UK voted out of the Union in 2016 in an event now commonly referred to as “Brexit”, Ireland was declared the only English speaking country within the European Union. 

According to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, it is stated “Ireland plays a central role to the EU’s Global Strategy which seeks to advance political relations, trade, development and security in all regions of the world.” Additionally, according to the site, Ireland also funds the EU’s development program and utilises its own EU membership to operate within the constraints of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to optimise the quality of life for those in the world’s less economically developed countries.

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Ireland’s International Role in the United Nations 

The United Nations (UN) is the world’s largest international governing body. As previously stated, they are who Ireland’s Defence Forces carry out peace missions for. Ireland is an elected member of the UN Security council for the years 2021-2022. 

According to the UN charter, the UN Security Council is entrusted with the mission of preventing acts of international aggression to protect the world from the existence of threats to peace.

In regards to the UN The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs’ Site states that “We have been entrusted with a significant responsibility to help maintain and promote international peace and security.” According to the site, this is Ireland’s fourth time on the UN security council having previously served from 1960-61,1981-1982 and 2001-2002. 

Ireland’s International Role in NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is an intergovernmental organisation. It consists of 2 North American countries and 27 European countries and one Eurasian country. NATO’s main mission is to spend at least 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence. 

But what is Ireland’s role in this organisation? Ireland is one of the European member states. On NATO’s Website it is said that an important objective of Ireland’s work with NATO is to cooperate to develop military capabilities. Specifically that of interoperability which is to optimise the cooperation of the Irish armed forces with allied and other partners’ armed forces in regards to UN, EU and NATO initiated missions. 

Main Takeaways 

  • Overall: Ireland’s main international code of conduct in terms of conflict is to maintain neutrality as much as possible. 
  • Irish Defence Forces: Act as a peacekeeping force when called upon by the UN, and do not act offensively. Examples include the Congo and peacekeeping in Lebanon which is more current. 
  • European Union: Ireland remains the only English speaking member of the EU. Ireland advances trade, development and security within this organisation. Additionally Ireland uses its EU membership to operate and achieve Sustainable Development Goals to help the environment. 
  • United Nations: Ireland is a 2021-2022 member of the UN’s security council marking its fourth time doing this. Ireland is entrusted with maintaining and promoting international peace. 
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organisation: Ireland’s role in NATO is to optimise military cooperation with other members for UN, EU and NATO led missions. NATO also is focused on developing military capabilities. 

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Gina Bagnulo

4 Comments

  1. With the greatest respect, your synopsis on Irish history is completely compromised by the section surrounding independence.
    Following a War of Independence, Ireland did not “receive its independence ” but rather negotiated its independence following a long and largely successful agrarian, political and even legal revolt against British rule in Ireland. Having achieved incomplete independence (almost, but not quite absolute sovereignty) THEN a civil war broke out over the nature of that independence, with a large minority objecting to the remaining diplomatic and constitutional ties with the British Commonwealth and also over the partitioning of 14% of the island to remain in UK – Northern Ireland.

    Even a cursory glance at recorded history would have corrected this glaring misrepresentation of the independence movement.
    Please amend your article to reflect recorded history.

  2. Finally, and most importantly, the name of the country is only ‘Ireland’, as per the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hEireann)
    ‘Republic of’ is merely a descriptor. You will find that every country in the world recognises it simply as that: ‘Ireland.’

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