Aim is to develop clear strategy for next 10 years (Part 1)


The following are extracts from the White Paper on Defence (the full text is available on the Website of The Irish Times).


The White Paper had as its objectives:

To provide a medium-term policy framework within which defence policy can evolve into a clear strategy for the next 10 years.

To provide for the continuation of the reform programme of defence services, already begun under the Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan, consistent with the national and international security environment and the state of the public finances.

To ensure that the management of defence services is in accordance with the evolution of the Strategic Management Initiative for the public service.

To set out the basis for the future development of Civil Defence policy and the follow-up to the present "Towards 2000" strategy.

Defence and Security Environment Assessment

Defence policy must be grounded on a realistic assessment of the defence and security environment. The principal conclusions of the Government's current review of this environment are:

Ireland faces a generally benign security environment; the external security environment does not contain any specific threats to the overall security of the State; broader security challenges have emerged in the European context which impact on Ireland as a member of the EU. These include humanitarian and other crises for which international responses are required.

The on-island security environment is being transformed through progress under the Good Friday agreement. While some threats to peace remain, the agreement provides the basis for a lasting peace.

The threats to the security of the State which have required an operational response from the Defence Forces over the last 30 years have all been in the internal security domain. The internal security of the State is primarily the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Siochana. The Garda are predominantly unarmed and trained for policing activities in a normal peaceful society, although they have developed some armed and specialist elements. The Defence Forces provide military personnel in an operational role in aid of the civil power.

The Good Friday agreement continues to be a source of hope for the political settlement of conflict in Northern Ireland. The political and security situations in Northern Ireland have been transformed by the agreement.

The security situation in Northern Ireland and on the Border has been transformed by the continuing ceasefires on the part of the main republican and loyalist paramilitary groups and by the beginning of normalisation of security arrangements provided for in the Good Friday agreement. These ceasefires have been firmly in place for a substantial period of time.

The paramilitary organisations hold significant quantities of illegally-held offensive weapons and explosives and are subject to varying degrees of political influence. All of the parties to the agreement are committed to using any influence they may have to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms by May 2000. The appointment of representatives to enter into discussions with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, following the establishment of the institutions of the agreement, has been recognised as a significant and positive development in this regard.

The security environment issues which have to be considered in the context of Northern Ireland stem from the actions, or potential actions, of illegal armed organisations, republican or loyalist. The greater threat to the security of the State stems from the activities, and potential activities, of dissident republican paramilitary groups. While it is recognised that the current ceasefires have been sustained over a protracted period, organisations of this kind may pose security dangers for which a level of defence response continues to be required. However, the overall dangers to security are of a considerably lower order than was the case prior to the ceasefires.

While dissident republican groups present a threat to security in a broad sense, they do not, given their small level of political support, represent a potential insurgency threat to the State. The threats from these groups stem principally from the threat of bank or other cash robberies and from the illegal importation of arms through or into the State. In pursuing their activities, such groups have shown a willingness to kill members of the public, the Garda or the Defence Forces.

Roles of the Defence Forces

The Government has decided that the revised roles of the Defence Forces are:

To defend the State against armed aggression; this being a contingency, preparations for its implementation will depend on an ongoing Government assessment of the security and defence environment.

To aid the civil power (meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Siochana, who have primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State).

To participate in multinational peace support, crisis management and humanitarian relief operations in support of the United Nations and under UN mandate, including regional security missions authorised by the UN.

To provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the EU.

To carry out such other duties as may be assigned to them from time to time, e.g. search and rescue; air ambulance service; ministerial air transport service; assistance on the occasion of natural or other disasters; assistance in connection with the maintenance of essential services; assistance in combating oil pollution at sea.

Defence Forces Organisation and Development 2000-2010

The Government's policy on defence aims to ensure that the following requirements are met:

To maintain a military force structure that provides a basis for responding to any major change in Ireland's strategic circumstances in the medium to long term, as well as demonstrating an appropriate commitment to national defence.

To maintain a military force structure capable of responding to requests to provide aid to the civil power and, in that context, contributing to the prevention of security challenges from abroad, including terrorism and arms smuggling.

To fulfil Ireland's international and regional responsibilities arising from membership of the UN by providing a range of military capabilities that can effectively be employed to participate in a broad range of multinational peace support and humanitarian relief operations.

To demonstrate Ireland's commitment to European security by having a suitable range of military capabilities that can be used to make appropriate contributions to regional security missions authorised by the UN.

The present organisational structure provides for three all-arms brigades involving infantry, combat service and combat service support elements. This structure differs considerably from the light infantry-based army recommended by Price Waterhouse and accepted in principle in Government decisions on the reform process.

It is essential to review the strength of the Permanent Defence Force. The Government has decided that an overall manpower level of 10,500 for the PDF is to be achieved by the end of 2001 and that the resulting savings of £25 million per year will be fully reinvested in the Defence Forces.

A programme of regular recruitment is essential. The strength of the PDF in 1999 has been well below 11,500 and currently stands at around 10,900.