Irish weapons training plan for Ukrainian troops a ‘breach of neutrality’, TDs claim

Paul Murphy and Neasa Hourigan express concern over move by Defence Forces

Plans for the Defence Forces to provide weapons training to Ukrainian troops are a “new departure in the Government’s breach of Irish military neutrality”, People Before Profit has said.

The party has accused the Government of lying to the public about the Defence Forces’ participation in training for the Ukrainian Armed Forces by giving the impression it would be “non-lethal”.

Rebel Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has also queried the plans for weapons training, describing it as a “concerning development”.

The Dublin Central TD – who is currently suspended from the Green’s parliamentary party for voting against the Government in the Dáil earlier this year – said: “The invasion of Ukraine is a serious threat to peace and stability in Europe.”


She added that “while it is appropriate that Ireland supports the Ukrainian population”, the weapons training “appears to be a significant departure from our country’s long-standing commitment to neutrality and peacekeeping”.

On Friday, a Department of Defence spokeswoman disputed suggestions that Ireland’s military neutrality had been compromised, saying: “Providing soldiers with basic military training including leadership and drilling instruction does not impact on this policy of military neutrality.”

She also said Ireland was not providing weapons to Ukraine.

The Irish Times reported on Friday that as well as providing troops to train Ukrainian forces in non-lethal areas such as mine clearance, combat medicine and engineering, Irish personnel were also earmarked to provide instruction in basic weapons skills and military tactics.

Weapons training was not included in public announcements by the Government of the Defence Forces’ participation in the EU training mission.

It contrasts with a statement by Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin earlier this year that the training would be in “non-lethal” areas.

Earlier this week, the Department of Defence denied any attempt to mislead the public, saying the list of training areas announced earlier this year, which did not include any mention of weapons training, “was always intended to be indicative rather than exhaustive”.

People Before Profit released a statement on Friday claiming that the Government “lied” about Defence Forces’ participation in the training.

Dublin South-West TD Paul Murphy said: “Providing basic weapons training to Ukrainian soldiers is clearly a breach of neutrality.”

He said: “When we raised opposition to Ireland’s participation in the EU’s Military Assistance Mission Ukraine (Eumam), and explained that this was a full-spectrum military training mission, Government representatives reassured the public that Irish soldiers would only be involved in non-lethal training.”

He also said: “Instead of participating in European militarisation and aligning with Nato, the Irish Government should be using its voice at an international level to push for peace.”

The Department of Defence has said that Cabinet initially decided in February to provide training in de-mining and combat medicine and a later decision to include additional modules such as basic military skills represented only a “modest step-up”.

Following a Government request, the Defence Forces provided a list of training modules it would be able to provide.

This list included basic weapons skills as well as more advanced marksmanship skills which would allow Ukraine to train up sharpshooters.

It is understood officials removed the marksmanship module from the memo which went to Cabinet amid concerns it could breach neutrality and may be rejected by Green Party Ministers.

On Friday, a Department of Defence spokeswoman said the Ukrainian Armed Forces were not being provided with weapons from Ireland.

Ireland has contributed more than €122 million in non-lethal aid through the European Peace Facility to supply items such as medical equipment, food, personal protective equipment and fuel.

She said: “Ireland’s policy of military neutrality is characterised by our non-participation in military alliances or common or mutual defence arrangements.

“Providing soldiers with basic military training including leadership and drilling instruction does not impact on this policy of military neutrality.

“Ireland is militarily neutral, but not politically neutral, in standing with Ukraine in the face of an illegal and immoral invasion by Russia which is in violation of the UN charter.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times