'Entirely true' that Ireland is freeloading on European defence, TD says

'Entirely True' That Ireland Is Freeloading On European Defence, Td Says
The report said Russia is an "acute maritime menace" to Ireland and the UK.
Share this article
James Cox

A report from a British think-tank that accused Ireland of “freeloading” when it comes to European defence is "entirely accurate", according to a TD and former deputy commander of the Army Ranger Wing.

The report from Policy Exchange also said Ireland presents a "backdoor" security threat to Britain from Russia, China and Iran.


It was written by former British defence secretaries Michael Fallon and George Robertson.

It also recommended the UK expanding its air and naval presence in Northern Ireland.

Cathal Berry told BreakingNews.ie: "It's a bipartisan report, one author is from Labour, the other Conservative, so it represents the moderate UK view.

"However, the facts stand on their own merits, it's entirely true that we're freeloading. There's a phrase 'show me the makeup of your cabinet, and your budget, and I'll show you what your priorities are'.


"We've got two ministers for education, and no standalone defence minister. The budget is €1.25 billion for 2024 for defence, which is the lowest in Europe.

"By GDP, it's only a third of the European average. It shows how much of an outlier Ireland is from a defence perspective. Why? We don't take it seriously. All you have to do is look at the makeup of the Cabinet. We're way out of kilter from the European norm."

Mr Berry also said neutrality is "being used as an excuse" when it comes to security arrangements.

Ireland isn't neutral at all, we're just floating around on our own.


"Neutrality is being used as an excuse. You can contribute on a case-by-case basis, as you wish. That's what independent sovereign nation states do.

"If it's in our national interest to contribute, we should. That's why we have an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with the UK.

"The more neutral you are, the more capable you should be militarily. Look at Austria. Sweden and Finland, formerly neutral.

"Ireland isn't neutral at all, we're just floating around on our own. We didn't really have a defence policy until 2000, for the first 80 years of our existence."


Mr Berry said the report's findings were all accurate, despite it being written from a UK perspective.

"We have no military grade sonar capability in Ireland. If that doesn't tell you we don't take defence in our home waters seriously, you don't need further evidence.

"We can only put two of our naval ships to sea at any one time. In 2006, we had eight Irish Naval ships at sea, so all we're asking is to go back to where we were 15 years ago.

"This does undermine Ireland's reputation internationally. A lot of international commentators have said, why should British and French taxpayers bail out Ireland from a military perspective?"


He added: "We spent €1.25 billion on defence. When our citizens get in trouble abroad, we're the first to ring a Nato country and ask for help. In fairness, the country does help. The following week we're telling the same countries how evil they are for being in Nato.

"There's a duplicity there that needs to stop. We're giving about €2 billion in overseas development aid, so €2 billion for charity, €1.25 billion on defence. The irony is that we rely on the charity of other countries when our citizens get into trouble abroad.

"Are we freeloaders? Yes, for sure. It's a bipartisan report, and I'd agree with the evidence presented. However, we don't need the UK to tell us how bad things are.

"Ireland is like a guy who goes to the pub with his friends and never buys a round when it's his turn. Worse still, Ireland is like the guy who the very next morning mocks his friends for supporting the drinks' industry. That's how Ireland is conducting its affairs internationally.

"We're a rich country, we should be net contributors in this area.

"If there's a major evacuation operation taking place globally, Ireland should be offering seats on aircraft to other countries, not thumbing seats to get our troops out there and our people home. It reflects so poorly on the country. We don't do that in any other sector or area in Irish society, and it reflects so poorly from a defence perspective."

Mr Berry said Ireland is in a "vulnerable position", citing worries over the subsea cables in our waters amid the presence of Russian boats off the Irish coast.

Cathal Berry said the report's findings on Ireland 'freeloading' when it comes to European defence were accurate.

"Most countries either join a collective defence arrangement or a regional security arrangement, or they provide for their independent defence capabilities.

"The vast majority of countries choose between those options. Ireland has created its own category where you do neither. You don't join a collective defence arrangement, and you don't provide for your independent sovereign defence capability. We are really exposed and vulnerable.

"The lesson from the last few years is that it's neutral countries who are targeted, countries that don't have the collective security.

"We have to be careful. We're a strategic location, we're the bridge both geographically and metaphorically between North America and the European continent. We have neither joined a regional security arrangement nor provided for our own defence. That's reckless, irresponsible and lazy. A day of reckoning will come, and you can be sure of that.

"Defence Forces numbers are in freefall, there are 7,500 people in the Defence Forces. We're withdrawing from Undof [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] in Syria at the end of the year because we don't have the numbers to man it. That will affect Ireland's peacekeeping reputation. Fifteen years ago we had 850 troops overseas, now we can't even keep 500."

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© BreakingNews.ie 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com