Concerns raised after €24m surge in value of Irish military exports

A €24m surge in the value of weapons and military items exported to foreign countries has prompted concern about Ireland sending goods to nations with poor human rights records.

Concerns raised after €24m surge in value of Irish military exports

There was a 39% increase in the value of military licences issued last year while dual-use goods, which can have a military-end function, continue to be exported to Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia among places.

End-of-year figures obtained by the Irish Examiner from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment reveal last year that Irish-based companies using 95 military licences exported €86m in military goods. This was compared with €62m in 2013.

Aside from weapons- related goods and technology issued to Ireland, the US was the biggest recipient of military goods, with licenses valued at €29m, while Germany also received €14m worth. Canada also was the final destination for €7m in licenced military goods.

Justice campaign group Afri said that even making components that end up in weaponry used abroad or military vehicles went against the pledge that Ireland was a neutral country.

Afri director Joe Murray said: “The €24m increase in licences for military goods is very significant. But there’s also a concern about dual-use goods. It’s a smokescreen about their end use.

“The Government needs to identify their end use, especially when countries such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Columbia are recipients of the goods. Nobody can claim they have high principles with regards to human rights.

“It would seem the Government don’t care about human rights violations as long as the money is coming in.”

A breakdown of the military exports shows these included different categories, including €526,000 of bombs and explosive items sent to the UK, €126,000 in military ground vehicles or parts to Israel, €6m of the same types to the US, and €17m in military aircraft or components to the US.

Figures for what Irish-based companies send abroad rise significantly when dual-use exports — items deemed to have a potential military use — are included.

The 2014 department report shows that €638m of such goods were exported from here last year.

Dual-use exports have caused concern, with calls for tighter controls and claims there is no transparency about their end use, which can be military.

The reports shows that Irish-based companies are still exporting significant amounts of dual-use goods to countries with poor human rights records. These include materials and equipment to China, Columbia, Iraq, Libya, and Somalia.

Some of the largest numbers of dual use licences were issued for various goods going to Saudi Arabia (50), Russia (38), Israel (21), and China (84).

The Department of Enterprise say that some of the military licences issued for goods in 2014 were for sports firearms and for companies engaged in mining activity.

Separately, it says the majority of dual-use licences issued are for commercial purposes.

A number of opposition TDs, including Independent Clare Daly, have criticised the level of military and dual-use licences agreed by Ireland.

Figures recently released by Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton show that only eight applications for military and dual-use export licences were refused by his department last year.

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