By Marc Eliot Stein, February 27, 2023
Ireland’s neutrality is important to Edward Horgan. He joined the Irish Defence Forces long ago because he believed a neutral country like Ireland could play an important role in nurturing global peace in an era of imperial conflict and proxy war. In this capacity he served on crucial United Nations peacekeeping missions in Cyprus when it was overrun by Greek and Turkish militaries, and in the Sinai peninsula when it was overrun by Israeli and Egyptian militaries.
Today, he speaks of the horrors he witnessed in these war zones as a key motivation behind his urgent work with peace initiatives such as World BEYOND War, Naming the Children, Veterans for Peace Ireland and Shannonwatch. The latter organization comprises antiwar activists in Limerick, Ireland who have been doing everything they can – including getting arrested and going to jury trial – to call attention to a shocking trend in Ireland: the slow erosion of this proud country’s neutrality as the world slides towards cataclysmic global proxy war.
I spoke to Edward Horgan on episode 45 of the World BEYOND War podcast, shortly after his own trial, in which he received the same kind of mixed verdict as several other recent brave protestors in Ireland. Can a person of conscience, a scholar of political science with decades of experience as a United Nations peacekeeper, be “guilty” for trying to prevent Ireland from being dragged into a general European war? It’s a question that boggles the mind, but one thing’s for sure: the civil disobedience of Edward Horgan, Don Dowling, Tarak Kauff, Ken Mayers and others at Shannon Airport is raising awareness of this dangerous folly all over Ireland and hopefully the world.
It was a bracing experience for me to discover the breadth of Edward Horgan’s personal commitment to activism, and to basic principles of common human decency. We talked about his Naming the Children project, which seeks to acknowledge the millions of young lives destroyed by war in the Middle East and all over the world, and about the moral values he was raised with that led him to pursue neutral peacekeeping as his life’s work, and to become a public gadfly when his own country began to abandon these principles of neutrality and the hopes for a better world that stand behind them.
We spoke about topical issues, including Seymour Hersh’s recent disclosure of evidence of USA’s complicity in the Nordstream 2 explosion, about the complex legacy of US president Jimmy Carter, about fundamental flaws with the United Nations, about lessons of Irish history, and about the disturbing trends towards blatant militarism and entrenched war profiteering in Scandivanian countries including Sweden and Finland that mirrors the same syndrome in Ireland. Some quotes from our riveting conversation:
“I have a great respect for the rule of law. In several of my trials the judges have been emphasizing the fact that I as an individual have no right to take the law into my own hands. My response is usually that I wasn’t taking the law into my own hands. I was just asking the state, and the police forces and the justice system to apply the rule of law properly, and all my actions were cleared from that point of view.”
“What the Russians are doing in Ukraine is almost a carbon copy of what US and NATO were doing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen especially, which is ongoing and the difficulties caused in these countries have been tremendous. We don’t know how many people have been killed across the Middle East. My estimate is it’s many million.”
“Irish neutrality is very important to the Irish people. Obviously in recent times much less important to the Irish government.”
“It’s not democracy that’s at fault. It’s the lack of it, and the abuses of democracy. Not just in Ireland but in the United States in particular.”
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Musical excerpts for this episode: “Working on a World” by Iris Dement and “Wooden Ships” by Crosby Stills Nash and Young (recorded live at Woodstock).