Fine Gael to ask Independents to back closer military co-operation

Taoiseach to consult ‘major Opposition parties’ before bringing EU proposal to the House

Simon Coveney: Minister told his EU colleagues that  he was confident Ireland’s participation would be approved. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Simon Coveney: Minister told his EU colleagues that he was confident Ireland’s participation would be approved. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Fine Gael Ministers will ask the Independent Alliance to support Ireland’s involvement in new European defence arrangements in the coming weeks, but the grouping has not yet decided if it will support the measures.

“Permanent Structured Co-operation” or Pesco, is a programme under which countries can pool their military capabilities for mission authorised by the EU under its common security and defence policy.

European foreign affairs and defence ministers signed the Pesco notification on Monday, and it is expected that the programme will be formally launched next month, though Ireland has not yet decided whether to join.

However, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told his EU colleagues that while he would not pre-empt the Government’s decision, he was confident Ireland’s participation would be approved.

Proposal

The Independent Ministers have not yet discussed the proposal, but one indicated to The Irish Times that as long as the proposal did not involve Nato, they would be inclined to support it.

In the Dáil on Tuesday, the Taoiseach said he would also consult with the “major Opposition parties” before bringing the proposal to the House. While he stressed that no decision had been made by the Government, he said his administration was “favourably disposed towards it”.

“Countries need to co-operate,” he said. He said that Ireland was not joining a European army and “would remain a neutral country”.

Equipment and pay

Pesco requires states to increase their military spending, which Mr Varadkar said was a good idea because the Defence Forces would need to replace equipment and increase pay. Pooling military procurement, one of the objectives of the agreement, would reduce the costs of new equipment, the Government believes.

“Increasing military spending doesn’t conflict with neutrality,” Mr Varadkar said.

The proposal is expected to brought to Cabinet by Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe in the coming weeks.

The move is likely to be opposed in the Dáil and by some peace groups. People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said on Tuesday the “architects and supporters” of Pesco “are saying explicitly that this is a step towards a European army”.