Details of Ireland’s air defence deal with Britain should be provided

Inside Politics: The cat’s well and truly out of the bag and it would not be unreasonable for Government to provide a full explanation

There has been a continued lack of openness about Ireland’s air defence arrangement with the UK dating back to the cold war in the days since The Irish Times reported on it.

On Tuesday, Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin said there may have been occasions in the past where RAF jets had entered Irish airspace “for different reasons”.

He said reports of a deal between the State and the UK, allowing the RAF to intervene in Irish airspace in the event of an attack, were inaccurate, but declined to elaborate.

“We don’t talk about national security but any agreements Government enters into are fully aligned with national sovereignty and sovereign decision-making and with military neutrality,” he said.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has refused to give the Dáil details about the air defence agreement, saying: “The security of our skies is a national security question and, therefore, I am limited in what I can say about it ... We have a very good and effective Air Corps in Ireland.

“We do not have an airforce of the nature of the United Kingdom, France, Russia or the US, and we never will.

“We have to put in arrangements for certain scenarios and we have arrangements for certain scenarios to assure our safety and national security,” he said.

As Sarah Burns reports, Mr Varadkar told the Dáil on Wednesday the State was going to build up its Air Corps and radar capability “so that we have an air force”.

“It will be a small air force appropriate for a country of five million people and even then, not just on an interim basis, but long-term, we will need to have arrangements and co-operation with our neighbours and also our partners in the European Union, particularly through Pesco [Permanent Structured Co-operation] and in Nato through the Partnership for Peace,” he said.

“There’s nothing strange about those arrangements. I think they’re entirely appropriate.”

He was speaking in response to a question from Independent TD Cathal Berry, who called for more transparency around the arrangement.

Mr Berry said that while the State should have its own air policing service, it was “completely reasonable”, “rational” and “responsible” that in the interim a neighbouring country with surplus capacity “cover for us for a couple of years until we establish our own service”.

“I very much welcome that there is at least some indication that there is an arrangement in place with the Royal Air Force and this country,” the Kildare South TD said.

“What I don’t like is the ambiguity surrounding it. It’s being treated like the third secret of Fatima all over again and it doesn’t have to be that. It’s very normal to enter into these relationships. I think we should be much more open and much more honest in that regard.”

It’s hard to disagree with him.

The cat’s well and truly out of the bag now and it would not be unreasonable for the Government to provide a full explanation of the arrangement and how it works.

On the opinion pages Newton Emerson highlights another interesting perspective on the issue, outlining how unionists are quietly delighted about the British air defence deal.

Lucrative fees for accountants and lawyers dealing with Quinn Insurance demise

Our lead story today reveals that accountants and lawyers earned fees of about €100 million from the demise of Quinn Insurance, according to figures showing the company’s collapse proved to be something of a bonanza for insolvency experts and their advisers.

Arthur Beesley reports that the 2010 implosion of the company established by bankrupt former billionaire Seán Quinn left taxpayers on the hook for €1 billion in losses, with surcharges on home and motor policies to fund State compensation for failed insurers.

But an analysis of public and private data shows how Quinn Insurance – and litigation linked to it – became a lucrative source of fees for 13 years after ministers placed it in administration.

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Dáil proceedings begin with questions to Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe at 9am followed by Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney at 10.30am.

Leaders’ Questions is at noon.

Government business in the afternoon is a debate on the Control of Exports Bill, 2023.

TDs can raise “Topical Issues” at 5pm.

The main committee action today will be the appearance before the Public Accounts Committee of the new Health Service Executive chief executive Bernard Gloster. It kicks off at 9.30am.

Junior minister Kieran O’Donnell will be before the committee on housing as it looks at the Planning and Development Act (Exempted Development) Regulations, 2023, at 1pm.

Representatives of the Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI) are to appear at the committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement at 1.30pm.

Here are the full Seanad schedule and committee schedule.