EEP Group

Opinion Article: Defence and security policy needs reform

Published: Fri, 10 November 2023

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There is legitimate and mounting concern for Ireland’s security and defence capabilities in the current global context. It is high time that this country takes a more responsible, proactive approach to its own security. Modern security threats are intricate, cross-border, and vary greatly from economic to technological and non-state actors, creating complex challenges. Instability across the world, attacks on critical infrastructure, and conflicts in regions like Libya, Syria, and Ukraine have implications for Ireland.

An incident that underscored Ireland’s vulnerability in this area was the major ransomware cyber-attack on the HSE, which paralysed nationwide IT systems and impacted health services significantly. The consequences of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, stemming from the illegal Russian invasion, contribute to a significant threat to European and global security. Ireland’s strategic interests demand a response that extends beyond its geographical isolation.

We need to collaborate with our European partners and like-minded nations to promote global peace and security. Ireland has rightly supported Ukraine’s fight for independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing Russian aggression, as we should also support innocent civilians in both the Palestinian territories as well Israel.

Security challenges have evolved beyond conventional military threats to encompass terrorism, cyber-attacks, disinformation, and subversion of political processes. Threats such as human trafficking, weapons proliferation, energy security, transnational organised crime, and food security are also pressing concerns that demand attention.

Protecting critical infrastructure should be a priority. For Ireland, that includes within our territorial waters. Yet, currently, the reality is we lack the full capability to do so. Maritime security plays a pivotal role in Ireland’s strategic interests, given the vast marine territory under our jurisdiction. This territory extends far beyond our coastline and includes energy pipelines and subsea cables, making it of immense strategic importance to the EU. We need to take this blind spot much more seriously in the modern world.

While Ireland has a policy of military neutrality, it must not translate into underinvestment in our defence capabilities. Historically, Ireland’s Defence Forces have faced underinvestment, increasing Ireland’s vulnerability in the context of the global security landscape. The government has committed to spending more in this area. However, these measures may only result in a marginal increase in defence spending relative to GDP, considering inflation and increased GDP projections. Additional funding is necessary to maintain our existing defence capabilities and operational outputs. This requires regular reviews of defence spending to ensure it aligns with our capabilities. Long-term planning and procurement strategies are essential to upgrade our naval, air, and radar capacities.

Ireland’s policy of military neutrality should be defined more clearly to adapt to current times. It should prioritise the nation’s security interests while not compromising our commitment to UN and EU peacekeeping and crisis management missions. The “Triple Lock” mechanism needs revaluation, with options like a “Double Lock” system or changing the “UN authorisation” part of the Triple Lock to “UN authorisation or EU council decision.” These measures will provide greater flexibility while maintaining our policy of neutrality.

Ireland’s national security is a matter of paramount importance and deserves urgent attention.

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