Ireland will hold a Consultative Forum on International Security Policy on the 22nd, 23rd, 26th and 27th of June. The Forum is an opportunity for the Irish public to share their views and have their voice heard on what they think Ireland’s approach should be towards its foreign, security and defence policy. At the Forum, the public will be able to ask questions and engage with other people and experts on the issues and approaches being discussed by the different panels over the four days. This Just the Facts outlines how to take part in the Forum, what it is about, why the Forum is taking place, while also looking briefly at Ireland’s neutrality.
What is the Forum and why is it happening?
The Forum is an opportunity to examine the different models and approaches Ireland could look towards rather than a comprehensive review of Ireland’s current approach to its foreign, security and defence polices. The Tánaiste noted that the Consultative Forum “will provide a unique opportunity to bring together a wide range of stakeholders from the foreign policy, and security and defence community, as well as civil society, political representatives, academics and other relevant bodies, as well as members of the broader public.”.
The 2022 Commission on the Defence Forces report argued for a fundamental review of the Irish defence strategy. It proposes a variety of approaches for key stakeholders to consider when determining the course of Irish defence policy. The Commission’s report argued for significant increases in capabilities and resources, as well as a thorough reform of existing command structures. Further, there are several significant external factors that have led to Ireland reconsidering its defence and security policy. One such factor is Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Additionally, advancements in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) have influenced the need for a discussion.
At home, there has been a noticeable increase in the Russian navy conducting military exercises near Ireland’s territorial waters over the past three years. These exercises have taken place near dense concentrations of undersea communications cables that link North America and Europe. This poses a potential threat to Ireland’s, and indeed Europe’s, security.
Another example is the HSE ransomware cyber-attack in 2021. This attack was the most significant cyber threat the country had ever experienced, emphasising the need to understand what security and defence policy means with regard to cyberspace and cybersecurity.
More generally, the so-called triple lock conditions under which the Defence Forces may participate in overseas operations has been increasingly questioned. The triple lock requires UN authorisation, Government approval and Dáil approval, but the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States) veto process has raised concerns about the ongoing value of this approach.
Ireland’s Current Security Commitments
Ireland has the longest history of unbroken service of UN peacekeeping member state with an estimated 70,000 individual tours of duty by Irish soldiers, sailors and aircrew in the world’s most challenging places. Ireland’s approach has also focused on aiding victims of armed conflicts and other emergencies. This has also included Ireland supporting the Women, Peace, and Security agenda while Ireland sat on the UN Security Council.
Ireland is also member of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which aims to deepen defence cooperation between current EU member states. Ireland’s participation in PESCO projects is maintained on an opt-in basis, with contributions being entirely voluntary and only in projects compatible with our policy of neutrality. Ireland is involved in PESCO areas of Cyber Threats, Disaster Relief, Special Operations Medical Training and Maritime (semi-) Autonomous Systems for Mine Countermeasures.
Ireland contributes to the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Examples of these EU military CSDP missions currently taking place with the Irish Defence Forces include in Mali, the EU naval mission in the Mediterranean, Operation IRINI and Ireland’s UN peacekeeping commitments.
Irish Neutrality: history and current situation
A key issue within the public debate in relation to the Forum has been Ireland’s neutrality. Ireland has officially been neutral ever since the formation and foundation of the State. However, Ireland’s relationship with neutrality is complicated and has varied over time. For instance, during World War II historians agree that Ireland was neutral in name, but not in action. For example, air space was granted for allied flyovers from the US to Royal Air Force bases in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
During the Cold War, Ireland maintained its official policy of neutrality, it did not align itself with NATO or the Warsaw Pact. During the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962), Taoiseach Seán Lemass authorised searches of aircraft that stopped over at Shannon airport on route between the Warsaw Pact countries and Cuba, looking for warlike material.
Ireland maintained its position of neutrality for subsequent decades, most notably during the Falklands War in 1982 in which the Irish Government was opposed to any support for EC sanctions against Argentina on the grounds of being a neutral nation.
In 1999, Ireland joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program (PfP). The partnership has allowed for flexible cooperation between Ireland and NATO. Furthermore, Ireland is also involved in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), a multilateral forum created to improve relations between NATO and non-NATO countries in Europe and on the European periphery.
More recently, with respect to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ireland remained neutral, but did allow US Air Force planes to refuel and transport US military personnel at Shannon Airport during both wars. Through the PfP Ireland currently supports NATO through planning for Peacekeeping missions as well as other common areas of peace support. An example of this is the UN peacekeeping school within Ireland which is open to allies and partners.
How to take part
Four events for the Forum are taking place at University College, Cork (22 June), University of Galway (23 June) and at Dublin Castle (26 – 27 June). To register to attend in person, please click this link. People can also follow the forum online here and make written submissions until 7 July.
The Chair of the Forum, Professor Louise Richardson, will collect the information and produce a report of the Consultative Forum. The Tánaiste Micheál Martin will then bring the report to the Government for consideration.
Consultative Forum on International Security Policy – Acronym List
EM Ireland has prepared shorthand list of commonly used acronyms within the defence and security space to aid with community engagement during the consultative forum.
- ASD Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe
- BAMS Broad Area Maritime Surveillance
- BIODIM Biological Detection, Identification and Monitoring
- CEPA Common European Priority Area
- CFSP Common Foreign and Security Policy
- CIMIC Civil-Military Co-operation
- CPCC Civilian Planning & Conduct Capability
- CSDP EU Common Security and Defence Policy
- DRG Defence Research Group
- EDA European Defence Agency
- EDF European Defence Fund
- EDRT European Defence Research and Technology
- EPF The European Peace Facility
- ESDP European Security and Defence Policy
- ESS European Security Strategy
- ESSOR European Secure Software Radio
- ESTEC European Space Research & Technology Centre
- EUMS European Union Military Staff
- IHL International Humanitarian Law
- INF Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
- ITPP Individually Tailored Partnership Programme
- MARSUR Maritime Surveillance
- NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
- PESCO Permanent Structured Cooperation
- PfP Partnership for Peace
- ToRs Terms of Reference
- UN United Nations
- UNSC United Nations Security Council
- WEAG CEPA WEAG Common European Priority Area
- WEAO Western European Armaments Organisation
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