Cabinet warned of rising threat to Ireland from foreign spies

Espionage and cyber attacks may hit foreign investment, defence review says


A new defence policy review states that threats from espionage and cyber attacks are increasing. File photograph: Getty


Spying by overseas intelligence services in Ireland is a growing threat to national security as well as to foreign direct investment and overall economic development, the Government has been warned.

A new defence policy review, given to Ministers this week, says threats from both espionage and cyber attacks are increasing since the White Paper on Defence was published in 2015.

It says these threats originate from “hostile states”, which it does not name.

The update, provided to Cabinet by Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe, says: “A developing factor in the domestic security environment is the threat to national security and economic wellbeing from espionage in the form of the clandestine activities by hostile states, including by their intelligence officers.

“Such activity is known to be multifaceted and may involve cultivating sources with a view to intelligence gathering and gaining protected, sensitive information relating to this State, as well as to international institutions and external organisations to which Ireland is affiliated,” it says.

‘Preventative measures’

“Furthermore, the potential repercussions of espionage activities on the confidence of foreign direct investment in Ireland has potential to affect our economic development.”

The review – the first in a cycle of three-yearly updates to the White Paper, which set out a long-term approach to defence provision – says the State will “continue to take preventative measures” against “espionage activities that are hostile to our interests”.

It also warns of a shortage of specialist personnel in key areas in the Defence Forces and about deficiencies in funding for equipment or to develop capacity, despite planned Government investments of more than €540 million up to 2022.

‘Safety management’

The review says there are “difficult shortfalls in certain key areas, including pilots, air traffic control, engineering, ordnance, communications as well as naval general and specialist roles”.

“In addition, this update gives recognition to the possibility of the need for additionality in certain areas including special forces, cyber, safety management, headquarters (including capability development and joint operations) and other specialist areas. However, given the gap between existing establishment and current strength, the immediate focus must remain in filling these existing gaps to get to the White Paper strength of at least 9,500 personnel.”

It says equipment in areas of secure communications, transport, aircraft and ships have reached or are about to reach their end of life. “While new investment provides some additions to capability, much of the planned investment falls into the category of retaining capability.”