Ireland has ‘food for thought’ in relation to protecting undersea cables, says senior Nato figure

Irish tech infrastructure means it will always be susceptible to cyber probes and challenges, says assistant secretary general during visit to Dublin

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) is working on how to protect and manage a range of critical infrastructures including important undersea cables that lie off the coast of Ireland, a senior Nato figure said during a visit to Dublin.

Assistant secretary general for public diplomacy Baiba Braže said undersea cables were one of the issues raised during a visit where she met with representatives of the Defence Forces, the Taoiseach’s office, the Dept of Foreign Affairs, and the defence attaches of Dublin embassies.

“Everyone realises it is critical infrastructure and that if something happens it is not good,” said the former Latvian ambassador to the UK.

“The question then is how to prepare, how to handle such a possibility . . . I am sure the Irish services are thinking about it, but it wouldn’t be for me to define what Ireland needs or doesn’t need in that regard.”


There was, she said, obviously “food for thought” for Ireland in terms of “how to manage the eventuality if something happens, what capabilities are needed, what co-operation networks.”

Nato and its allies were giving consideration to the topic, she said.

“And there is a lot the private sector can do because most of those cables are laid by big private companies [who] take security into account from the outset.”

“The cyber attack on the [Irish] health service surely showed that attacks are possible,” Ms Braže said, and the threat of further cyber attacks was not going to go away.

“There will always be efforts to poke and to challenge, especially with such big technology infrastructure here.”

The presence of so many large tech companies in Ireland “brings a lot of money to Ireland, to pay for some of the stuff that needs to be done”.

The tailored partnership programme between Nato and Ireland is currently being updated. These programmes usually involve priorities and it is up to Ireland to decide what it wants to do with Nato, Ms Braže said.

“How far Ireland wants to go with its partnership is a matter for Ireland.”

Earlier this month a spokesman for the Minister for Defence, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, said increased co-operation with Nato in relation to cyber attacks and maritime intelligence were among the issues being considered for the new partnership programme.

Ms Braže said a lot of research has taken place into the claim that Moscow was assured around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union that Nato would not move eastwards towards the Russian border.

“No promise like that was made. It doesn’t exist.”

The “disinformation narrative” that Russia was spreading around the world was that expansion by Nato was to blame for the invasion of Ukraine.

“This sort of disinformation is poisonous.

“The claim attempts to deny the agency of countries that want to join Nato. It is a country’s right to decide its own security arrangements, she said. New members have to apply to join the alliance. It is not a decision made by Nato.

“But the main point is that a nuclear power has invaded a smaller neighbour and it is trying to justify it with fake ideas and reasons. It is typical of the way Russia operates.”

“The Nato alliance has provided peace and security for its almost one billion citizens for nearly 75 years,” she added.

“We do that through making sure that there is no miscalculation by those who might not wish [us] well. We make sure there is proper deterrence or if necessary defence capacity by all means, civil, military, informational, cyber, and others, to deter miscalculation, to deter possible malign intentions, but also, if necessary, to defend.”

“It was not for Nato to advise Ireland one way or the other about it being militarily non-aligned. But Ireland was certainly not neutral politically, and stands for democracy and the principles of international law,” she said.

“It is important to continue to support Ukraine and stand up for international law and the UN Charter. That is what Ukraine is fighting for. For their right to decide their own affairs.”

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent