Doubts in Defence Forces over dealing with terror acts

Simon Coveney tells officers’ association to desist from creating unnecessary fears

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney:  “We have good responsive capacity within An Garda Síochána and within the Defence Forces.”.Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney: “We have good responsive capacity within An Garda Síochána and within the Defence Forces.”.Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Defence Forces officers have expressed concern at the ability of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps to respond if the State was subjected to terrorist attack.

The Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) said the Defence Forces would not be able to cope with international terrorism “on a continual basis”.

Raco general secretary Comdt Earnán Naughton said the events in Paris last weekend had “brought home” the urgent need to invest in counter-terrorism equipment and fill key vacancies arising from a military “brain drain” under way.

“What I would say is that if a Paris-style situation developed here, we would be able to address it,” Comdt Naughton said at Raco’s annual conference in Naas, Co Kildare. “But have we got the capacity for ongoing incidents if they were of a frequent nature? It’s about capacity and the skill sets to provide at the right point in time.”

Vulnerable society

“What happened in Paris really brought home to us how close and how vulnerable society can be. You have to be able to deploy robustly, fit for purpose and highly specialised forces,” he said.

He said the White Paper had identified areas such as radar to identify aircraft in Irish airspace and an air interdiction capability.

“We would have concerns – when you look at the threats that were clearly identified and then delaying the resourcing in addressing those threats, why delay?

“We have seen what has happened recently in Paris. If the threat is identified, capabilities must then be developed and resourced. If it’s a threat, you must address it. I think Paris is an example of the threats that are within close range of our people and our borders.”

Fearmongering

Simon Coveney

“Of course, there is a possibility of an incident in Ireland but the threat remains low and I think it’s important to say that. We shouldn’t be suggesting that there is a threat out there that we don’t have the capacity to respond to. We have good responsive capacity within An Garda Síochána and within the Defence Forces who support them.”

Mr Coveney said Ireland had had “an organic threat” from republican paramilitaries for many years and had responded to that. He said while Irish troops may take the place of French troops in the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, which would free up French troops to focus on its domestic terror threat, those talks had not yet begun.

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett declined to be drawn on whether he felt Raco’s comments on Ireland’s preparedness had been unhelpful.

However, he believed the Defence Forces were fit for purpose.