DUBLIN — Most Irish citizens want to increase military spending and almost half want to join NATO in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a new poll.
The findings of the Red C pollsters, published in Sunday’s Business Post newspaper in Dublin, suggest a dramatic change in public attitudes towards Ireland’s official policy of neutrality.
He revealed that 48% now want to join NATO against 39% who oppose it, a record for this question. As recently as January, a similar poll found just 34% support for joining the transatlantic military alliance.
Ireland’s centuries-old determination to avoid any military alliance with Britain kept it out of World War II and even offered official condolences to Nazi Germany after news of Adolf’s death was announced. Hitler. This studious neutrality has been put to the test since February, when Russia held naval military exercises off the Atlantic coast of Ireland.
The episode highlighted the inability of the ill-equipped Irish Defense Forces to monitor these Russian maneuvers. The Irish have no military-grade radar or sonar capabilities, no jets capable of long-range surveillance or interception missions, and too few sailors to operate its fleet of nine ships.
Instead, under a two-decade-old confidential agreement, Ireland allows the Royal Air Force to intercept all Russian aircraft sorties off the Atlantic coast of Ireland.
Ireland’s annual defense spending currently stands at €1.1 billion, the lowest in the EU at just 0.2% of economic output. A report commissioned by the government last month recommended that this spending be increased by at least 50% or, in the most aggressive scenario, tripled.
Of those polled, 59% said they wanted Ireland to “significantly increase” military spending, while 28% opposed it.
And 46% said they would support “a referendum for Irish troops to serve in a potential future European army”.
However, the poll also illustrated the confusion over what it really means to join NATO or an EU-organised force. When asked if ‘Ireland should abandon its policy of neutrality’, 57% said no.
And only 39% said Ireland should send arms to Ukraine. Ireland is instead offering non-lethal aid, including rations, medical supplies and body armor, as part of EU-wide support for Ukraine’s defence.
The main opposition Sinn Féin, traditionally hostile to NATO and favorable to Russia, has changed its position in recent weeks. But a small group of Ireland’s most staunchly left-leaning lawmakers still see the current Ukraine crisis as a moment to strengthen, not weaken, Ireland’s neutral stance.
Later this week, the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament, will debate a bill to amend Ireland’s 85-year-old constitution to include neutrality. The bill is sponsored by five socialists from the 160-seat Dáil.
One of its authors, Richard Boyd Barrett, said that many citizens are alarmed to see the Irish government “trying to bring Ireland closer to the idea of an EU army and NATO”.
“There is no doubt that Ireland stands against the repugnant and despotic actions of Putin and the Russian regime in Ukraine,” he said. “But military neutrality is important because it means Ireland must stand up and oppose all forms of imperialism, empire and war, whoever instigates it.”