Defence Forces will get thousands of extra staff under plan for Cabinet, Coveney says

Minister for Defence says war in Ukraine changed the context in terms of security

The Defence Forces will be allocated thousands of extra staff and “significant” additional funding under plans due to be brought to Cabinet by the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney.

Speaking on Wednesday in the wake of another package of sanctions against Russia, Mr Coveney said the war in Ukraine had changed the context in terms of security.

“Next month, we’ll bring a memo to Government to significantly increase the resourcing of defence and security in Ireland. We have an evidence base to do that now, which is the Commission’s report on the Defence Forces. And, of course, we have an international context where every country in the European Union and beyond is looking at defence and security issues.

“As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence it’s my job to bring to Government a sensible, realistic memo


“But that is going to involve, in my view, and I hope I’ll get government agreement on it, a significant increase in resourcing for our Defence Forces.”

He said the Commission’s recommendation for thousands of extra staff would be a “starting point.”

In February the Commission put forward an intermediate proposal for funding , which would address urgent capability gaps and allow for some limited upgrades.

“I think the Commission’s report is a good piece of work. It sets out three levels of ambition and recommends that we move to level two of ambition which essentially is adding about 2000 extra people to the establishment of the Defence Forces and we’re 1,000 behind where we should be today so that means an extra three 3000 people and of course, it recommends investment in defence infrastructure to fill obvious capacity gaps that are there today,” Mr Coveney said.

“So that for me is the starting point and I’d be speaking to the party leaders and obviously to Minister Michael McGrath and Minister Paschal Donohoe in terms of planning for how we increase the financial resources to the defence sector significantly in the years ahead.

“But the commission, I think, is a good starting point, but don’t forget that the commission report was done before the war in Ukraine so I think the politics and the context within which we make this decision now is also different to when the work of the Commission began,” Mr Coveney said.

Mr Coveney was speaking to reporters after the annual State Ceremony at Arbour Hill to commemorate the Easter Rising, and the executed leaders of 1916 .

Speaking about the proposal by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia, Mr Coveney said it was a “big signal” to the Kremlin.

“First of all on the sanctions this is this is a welcome development. We have been pushing for some time now to have a sixth round of sanctions that has an oil embargo included in it. There was a difficulty getting that delivered and maintaining unity across the EU and they’ve now found a way of resolving that to allow Hungary and Slovakia effectively have an extended period of time because of their reliance on Russian oil,” he said.

“I think is a is a big signal, both to the Kremlin but also of the intentions of the EU to move away from any dependence at all on Russia and I think it further isolates Russia. It will increase the cost of course of the continuation of this war.”

“The whole point of sanctions is that is that they act as a deterrent,” he added.

Some 27,000 Ukrainians have come to Ireland to seek safety and Mr Coveney said “tens of thousands more potentially will come. We’re planning as a European Union for up to ten million refugees.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times