Irish participation in European Defence Agency (EDA) projects that will likely lead to opportunities for the State to supply more non-lethal equipment to Ukraine has been approved by the Cabinet.
Ireland has contributed at least €55 million in military aid such as body armour, medical supplies and rations to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February of last year.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has secured approval for Ireland to participate in four EDA projects. These include one on collaborative procurement between European Union countries for ammunition; another on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) equipment such as hazmat suits; and another on equipment for soldiers.
While the ammunition project will be used to fast-track the procurement of ammunition to supply Ukraine, Ireland will not be participating in this aspect of the project. “There will likely be opportunities to supply non-lethal equipment to Ukraine through the soldier equipment and CBRN projects,” a Government spokesman said.
He said Irish participation in the EDA projects “should result in significant cost savings and improve the security of supply chains” when purchasing equipment for the Defence Forces. The procurement projects are to last eight years and there is no cost to the State for participation, unless it places an order.
The fourth project is the EDA Military Computer Emergency Response Team Operational Network Project aimed at facilitating information exchange and improving EU member states’ response to cyber threats.
In other business, the Cabinet was briefed on a plan to move the Irish Embassy in London to a new ‘Ireland House’ that will also provide offices for Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland by 2026. A Government spokesman declined to provide the precise location or estimated cost of the lease, describing this information as “commercially sensitive”.
He said the new Ireland House would be in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square, the Mall and Whitehall.
Separately, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly got Cabinet approval to draft legislation aimed at making “tens of millions of curo” per year in the cost of biologic medicines. Current legislation prevents the Health Products Regulatory Authority from substituting medicines that are not chemical-based.
Biologics are medicines that are manufactured using living cells, and biosimilars are less costly imitations of those drugs which are manufactured once the patent expires on a biological treatment. The legislation would give effect to an EU decision on the interchangeability of biosimilar medicines.
Elsewhere on the agenda Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys asked the Cabinet to note that a resolution has been reached on the issue of increased funding to allow for pay rises for more than 1,600 employees of sponsor companies that provide community employment and unemployment schemes such as Tús and the Rural Social Scheme.
Unions have accepted an offer of a 3 per cent increase from April 1st and a further 2 per cent increase from the November 1st this year.
The 1,641 affected staff are not covered by existing public-service agreements and they have not received a salary increase since 2008. The increased funding is estimated to cost €1.7 million this year and €3.3 million every year thereafter.
The Government separately appointed Art O’Leary as chief executive of the Electoral Commission, which has responsibility for registering political parties; reviewing constituency boundaries and seat numbers; and regulating political advertising among other responsibilities.
Mr O’Leary, a former secretary general to the President, was initially appointed as the interim chief executive in December.
* This article was edited on May 31st, 2023