Russian naval exercises due to take place in Ireland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) give cause for concern and highlight the need for investment in Irish defence, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Joe O’Reilly, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Foreign & European Affairs, Defence and Brexit said, “As a small neutral country, Ireland must support Ukraine in the face of the Russian military build-up on its borders. We must also reinforce the sovereignty of states in the face of threats and intimidation. At an EU level, I welcome President Von De Leyen’s announcement of a €1.2 billion assistance package for Ukraine.
“However, the upcoming Russian military exercises in Ireland’s EEZ remind us that, despite residing on the western periphery of Europe, Ireland is not immune from the security threats on the wider continent. The planned military exercises are located on the western flank and weakest link of both the EU and NATO. These exercises are designed to intimidate and stoke tensions as well as highlight the weaknesses and gaps within both Irish and European defence.
“As recently as March 2020, the UK’s Royal Air Force was scrambled in response to Russian military aircraft approaching Irish air space off the west coast. The Irish Air Corps do not currently have the capability to intercept such foreign aircraft.
“The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform must consider the need for increased investment and ensure our Defence Forces receive the financial support necessary to prepare our country for present and future defence challenges.
“Ireland is now a global hub when it comes to leading technology companies, international finance and pharmaceuticals and, as a result, we may face greater security and defence challenges. We witnessed an attack last year when Wizard-Spider, based in St. Petersburg, launched a cyber-attack on the HSE.
“In conjunction with the heightened security tensions in Europe and the planned Russian military exercises, questions have been raised about the viability of Ireland’s neutrality and the ability of our Defence Forces to responds to threats.
“We urgently require increased funding from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to protect against any vulnerabilities to exploitation by foreign powers,” concluded Senator O’Reilly.