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Security of state at risk due to government defence failures - John Brady TD

22 November, 2021 - by John Brady TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has challenged Minister for Defence Simon Coveney on the vulnerabilities in Ireland’s security that have arisen as a result of the government's neglect of the Naval Service.

These have resulted in serious gaps developing in the capacity of the Naval Service’s ability to fulfil its role in protecting the security of our coastal waters.

Teachta Brady said:

“Recently, I participated in a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence visit to Haulbowline Naval Service base, and a number of important issues were raised. One of the most important issues was that of Ireland’s inability to carry out subsurface surveillance of our coastal waters.

“This is a particularly pressing and urgent matter due to the volume and importance of the continental data cables that are situated off our western seaboard. The recent cyber attacks on the HSE have clearly illustrated the dangers that our digital infrastructure faces from attack.

“The inability of the Irish Naval Service to carry out subsurface surveillance on the continental data cables leaves a significant gap in the defence, not just of our country’s security, but of the EU project itself.

“The US Financier Stephen Malphrus has stated that ‘when the [submarine] communication [cable] networks go down, the financial sector does not grind to a halt, it snaps to a halt’.

“We have had situations where vessels registered to other countries have engaged in what can only be described as concerning activities in Irish waters, in the vicinity of continental date cables. The Naval Service is reduced to sitting back and monitoring the situation as it happens, due to the abject failure of the government to adequately resource the Service. 

“Ireland possesses one of the largest maritime to land ratios within Europe, with a maritime border of 1,315km. Incredibly, given these figures, the Naval Service has only been able to put one ship to sea at any given time in the recent period, which critically erodes the country’s capability to provide maritime security.

“The responsibility for this lies squarely with the Minister. His failure to address the issue of recruitment and retention has left the Defence Forces 1,000 personnel short of where it needs to be. This failure is crippling the effectiveness of the Naval Service.

“The continuing failure of Minister Coveney to get to grips with the crisis in the Defence Forces is hurtling our services towards disaster. The Minister has previously failed to deliver on the government's white paper on Defence, while staffing shortages continue to stretch our Defence Forces close to breaking point. The Minister’s continuing failure is compromising the security of the state.

“There is no doubting the commitment, the sense of duty and the professionalism of our Defence Forces. But they are only human. They can only work with the resources they are given. We need action, and we need it immediately before it is too late.” 

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