In effect, Dublin abdicated its responsibility to protect the borders of northwestern Europe.

Despite the war raging in Ukraine and countries like North Macedonia, Georgia and Moldova desperately seeking to join the EU, there is one member country that will not help defend Europe anytime soon.

That country is Ireland.

Despite being responsible for 16 percent of the EU’s territorial waters and the fact that 75 percent of transatlantic submarine cables pass through or near Irish waters, Ireland is completely defenseless. And I mean completely incapable of protecting critical infrastructure, or even pretending to protect its own borders.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

Well, Ireland’s “navy”, made up of six patrol vessels, is currently operating with one operational vessel due to chronic staff shortages. More than a month’s worth of naval patrol days were canceled in the 12 months to March 2024 due to staffing shortages. Pay and conditions are so bad that entire classes of Naval Service graduates are being bought out of their contracts by private employers looking for their technical skills.

Ireland simply does not have submarine capabilities. How could it do so, when it barely spends 0.2% of GDP on security and defense? And, in effect, it abdicated its responsibility to protect the borders of northwestern Europe.

Things are so embarrassing that when Russian naval ships carried out exercises near Irish waters three weeks before the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it was a fleet of Irish commercial fishermen who confronted them. And, more recently, a resurgence in drug trafficking activity linked to Mexican organized crime forced current legislator (and former senior Irish army officer) Cathal Berry to warn that “(Ireland) has handed over the keys to the country to the cartels”.

Unfortunately, things are even worse in the skies. Ireland does not have combat aircraft and is the only country in Europe that cannot monitor its own airspace due to a lack of primary radar systems. The absence of fighter planes or heavy air transport has left the Irish begging other European air forces for help in emergencies – most recently during the evacuation of Western personnel from Afghanistan.

Instead, the country outsourced its security to Britain in a technically secret deal between Dublin and London, which effectively cedes control of Irish airspace to the Royal Air Force.

This must be the luck of the Irish – smile and ask someone to protect you for free.

Unfortunately, the country’s policymakers are so entrenched in their formula of helpless neutrality that no major change in policy is possible.

Officially, the Irish government is drawing attention to its “Defence Forces Commission Report” published in early 2022, which – they say – will transform Irish capabilities. Unfortunately, however, Irish defense spending has continued to decline throughout 2023, with modest increases significantly below the rate of inflation. And the only upgrade planned before 2028 is the acquisition of a basic primary radar system – all other weaknesses are blithely ignored.

The country outsourced its security to Britain in a technically secret deal between Dublin and London that effectively cedes control of Irish airspace to the Royal Air Force. | Ministry of Defense via Getty Images

However, Dublin’s decision to attend this year’s Munich Security Conference and extol the virtues of neutrality demonstrates the extent to which the country has become inaccessible. This inevitable road accident in an argument highlighted how the painfully paternalistic brand of Ireland’s best humanitarianism is no longer taken seriously beyond the Irish Sea.

Ironically, it was Ireland’s membership of the single market and penchant for “fiscal competition” that gave Dublin ample fiscal space to invest more in security and defense – if it so chose. Its growing corporate tax revenues, driven exclusively by US technology and pharmaceutical companies, are expected to generate budget surpluses of approximately €50 billion by 2027. Unfortunately, security and defense spending doesn’t even enter into the conversation about how this money must be invested. spent.

Ultimately, Ireland’s policies highlight the fact that Dublin feels no responsibility to protect its own borders, regardless of the potential impact on its fellow EU members – a view that reflects its broader transactional approach to EU affairs. , which is based on safeguarding existing relations with the USA (corporate tax) and the United Kingdom (open border with Northern Ireland).

European solidarity only brings up the rear.

Furthermore, Ireland’s approach to the next round of EU budget negotiations promises to be more of the same as usual – more money (Ireland is a net taxpayer) in exchange for maintaining the flow of corporate tax returns. Somehow, Ireland, which was bailed out in 2010, is still trying (unsuccessfully) to keep up with the frugal pack when it comes to cash.

Pay a little and get a lot more seems to be the current Irish mantra.

And most depressing of all, not even a direct attack by Russia on the Baltic States, Finland or Poland will convince Ireland to lift a finger – or reach for its checkbook – to help defend Europe. As part of a successful strategy to convince the country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the EU agreed to an additional protocol, providing Dublin with a safeguard clause for any European defense responsibilities.

Thus, while the EU – including even Germany – advances in terms of security and defense, Ireland remains indifferent on its island oasis.

Two things are certain: Ukraine will continue to fight; Ireland will continue to take advantage.

Via POLITICO. Por Eoin Drea, senior research fellow at the Wilfried Martens Center for European Studies.


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