Ireland likely to join Nato project to protect undersea cables

Ireland has little if any means of protecting undersea cables which carry internet traffic between US and Europe and pass through Irish waters off south and west coasts

Ireland is likely to join a new Nato initiative to monitor and protect undersea cables running through Irish waters against potential Russian sabotage, according to sources familiar with discussions in Government.

Ireland is a member of the Nato-led Partnership for Peace, which enables non-Nato members to co-operate with the alliance on specific projects. That membership, in place since 1999, is currently being renewed and a new Nato project called the Critical Undersea Infrastructure Cell is likely to part of the discussions.

It’s expected that Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Micheál Martin and officials will discuss the potential for joining the Nato project in the coming months but one senior source said it would be surprising if he did not recommend joining, given the current context.

Announcing the initiative earlier this year, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said “the centre will facilitate engagement with industry and bring key military and civilian stakeholders together”.


Nato said it would “share best practices, leverage innovative technologies and boost the security of allied undersea infrastructure”.

Ireland has little if any means of protecting the undersea cables which carry internet traffic between the US and Europe and pass through Irish waters off the south and west coasts. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and especially since the sabotage of an undersea gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea last year – for which all sides deny responsibility – concern has been growing in western countries about the vulnerability of the network of undersea cables.

There has been concern that Russian vessels have been mapping the cables to make sabotage possible. Last week, the Defence Forces confirmed they were monitoring the presence of four Russian ships in the exclusive economic zone which extends over 200 miles off the west coast. The ships were observed by an Air Corps patrol aircraft and Naval Service’s LE George Bernard Shaw.

Nato has also conducted a number of exercises in the north Atlantic aimed at protecting subsea infrastructure. In addition, the alliance last week began an annual exercise in the north Atlantic called Formidable Shield.

“Throughout Formidable Shield, allied and partner forces will participate in a series of live-fire events against subsonic, supersonic and ballistic targets, incorporating multiple allied ships, ground forces and aviation assets working across battlespaces to deliver effects and effectively accomplish exercise objectives,” Nato said in a statement.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times