Irish Minister for Defence, Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney has announced a plan to expand the Irish Defence forces drastically over the next ten years. New aircraft, naval ships, recruitment programs and armoured personnel carriers will refocus the Irish Military from a peacekeeping, civil defence to a larger force more capable of entering conflict zones globally.
This is coming just months after Minister Coveney bypassed the nation’s Triple Lock Agreement to engage in an Italian lead mission in North Africa EUNAVFOR MED’s Operation Triton where the Irish Defence Forces are working on search and rescue. The Minister avoided the Trible Lock by working on Operation Triton under a bilateral agreement with Italy. Yet the European Foreign Affairs Council has said the Operation was agreed to by all EU members including Ireland. High Representative and Vice President Federica Morgherini even announced her happiness at the speed of all members agreeing to proceed with the operation “I am impressed with the unanimity and speed with which we managed to put this in place.”
Watch Clare Daly TD questions Ireland’s agreement with EUNAVFOR Med
Yet this operation has not been approved by Dáil Eireann or in the Seanad as is needed with the existing UN mandate for Ireland to engage in the mission.
Now it seems the Minister intended to take the Irish Defences to the next level with his new White Paper on Defence. Speaking on Morning Ireland Radio Show on RTE the national broadcaster Simon Coveney said “Well I think Traditionally Ireland has taken a view that everybody likes the Irish so therefore there is no threat, military threat, to Ireland and I think traditionally our focus on defence has been related to Northern Ireland and the troubles there and international peace-keeping but not a whole lot else and really this white paper develops significantly our ambitions for, and the need for, defence capacity at home and abroad to be significantly enhanced.”
The announcement came with the publishing of the countries second ever “White Paper on Defence” which has been a work in progress for the past three years. Started under disgraced and subsequently fired former Defence Minister Alan Shatter the paper was finalised by his successor Simon Coveney and includes plans to expand the Army Naval Service and Air Crops as well as using new ways of recruiting young people in more deprived areas of the country and developing new educational facilities. They also plan to increase the Army Rangers Wing.
In Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s introduction in the opening pages of the White paper he says “The decisions taken in this White Paper will influence the development of defence capabilities for the next decade and beyond whilst acknowledging that the future is inherently uncertain. The maintenance of such flexible and adaptable military capabilities represents a very pragmatic and appropriate approach to dealing with such uncertainty.”
When explaining the reasons for the upgrade Minister Coveney said “Ireland faces, like all countries face now, a much more complex defence challenge so everything from radicalization and fundamentalism, and international terrorism to mass migration internationally to other new challenges like climate change, energy security, cyber security and the threats of rapidly changing technology, as well as, you know, conventional defence requirements both at home and abroad this is a very complex area now…”
He goes on to explain that Irelands membership within the EU and UN means their role in foreign defence is needed now more than ever. Ireland now plans on obtaining three new Naval Ships including one with the capability to carry a helicopter, replacing the Cessa and Casa Aircraft with new aircraft for the Air Corps and securing more armoured personnel carriers.
The Department of Defence has intentions to increase the number of female personnel by half which according to the Minister would boost the percentage from approximately 6% to 12%. Minister Coveney said on the Morning Ireland Show that one of the goals in increasing the numbers of women in the military is to help with Ireland’s seemingly new mission to prevent and fight against sexual violence being used as a weapon internationally. The hypocrisy of this statement is hard to ignore when we consider how the Irish government has slashed funding to their own rape crisis centers by 25% since 2008.
The “Institute for Peace, Support and Leadership Training” planned for the Curragh Co. Kildare is already been circled as a possible wolf in sheep’s clothing. Plans to build an educational facility in Kildare is creating suspicion in the area due to concerns that the Government plans to draw the high number of young, unemployed people in the area to boost the numbers in the military thus allowing the state to avoid investing much needed time, attention and funds into the Kildare area.
In the White Paper it states “This will be aimed at a specific group in the 18-24 year old range. In particular, it is proposed to offer individuals who might otherwise struggle to break out of cycles of disadvantage, the opportunity to participate in employment skills focused development programme provided by the Defence Forces.”
Minister Coveney and the government’s insistence on increasing military spending at a time when austerity measures are devastating communities from coast to coast is creating even more anonymity towards the already much despised Fine Gael and Labour government. A housing crisis is ongoing with thousands of people returning to the rental market while the number of rental properties available has plummeted. The increasing numbers of people being made homeless including pregnant women and children is now being considered in itself a crisis in the state. At the same time activists who attempted to tackle the problem by occupying and reopening a homeless shelter were served with court orders to leave the building.
After being asked how much the implementation of the White Paper on Defence would cost the Minister said “Well I mean we don’t…Emmm em…The negotiations between my department and the department of public expenditure will determine that erm.. but clearly this white paper makes the point that Ireland has been under-investing in defence eh for quite some time erm…”
There are more concerns that this White Paper might be a further push in the direction of Ireland joining NATO but Minister Coveneny said “Really what this is about is trying to ensure as a sovereign proud, independent, country as we enter into 2016. Ireland is a country that takes seriously its own defence and its role internationally as part of the European union as a very active member within the UN to international defence challenges which are significant now and I think we get reminded of that every day.” Yet the public can’t help but think back to May 2014 when the then Agriculture Minister Coveney was caught on camera going for a very awkward stroll with Peter Sutherland. See link here
This was just a month before his surprise appointment to the Minster of Defence.
After the appointment, Minister Coveney said he was surprised when he was appointed Minister for Defence. By the 26th of July Minister Coveney had come up with an idea to use the Defence Service as a means to climb out of recession including using Ireland as a test bed for military development.
In an article by The Irish Times named “Defence Forces can play role in recovery, says Coveney” published on Sat July 26th 2014 he said “Instead of seeing the Defence Forces – Army, Air Corps and Naval Service – as purely a cost for the State and a user of funds, I actually think we should turn that around,”
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