Government told to bolster Naval Service to protect Irish maritime security

An expert group has made a submission to the government saying it must bolster the Naval Service to protect the country's maritime security.

Government told to bolster Naval Service to protect Irish maritime security

An expert group has made a submission to the government saying it must bolster the Naval Service to protect the country's maritime security.

The submission, seen by the Irish Examiner, was made by the Irish Maritime Forum, an independent and non-political collegiate of professionals who have a wide range of experience across the maritime domain.

It was sent to the government as part of the public consultation on a new National Security Strategy which will lead how the State protects its national security and vital interests from current and emerging threats over the period 2020-2025.

The maritime forum members said the balance between the elements of the Defence Forces should reflect the fact that we are an island nation, with a sea area of control eight times our landmass.

To this end, the forum says the Naval Service should be upgraded to reflect international norms and its strengths and capabilities be enhanced.

Ironically, the call comes as the Naval Service struggles even more than the Army and Air Corps with the ongoing manpower crisis.

It was forced to tie up two ships - flagship, LÉ Eithne, and coastal patrol vessel LÉ Orla - last June and sources have indicated that they will not be put back into operational service any time soon.

The maritime forum said the seas off Ireland have the potential value of several trillion euro, including mineral deposits, fisheries, wind and wave energy and they need to be adequately protected.

In its submission its members wrote:

"As an island nation and an open trading economy our national security cannot be seen in a domestic context only. Our security both benefits from and can be adversely affected by the acts and postures of other actors on the regional and international stage."

They added any interruption to seaborne trade would cause an immediate crisis and while currently there may be a limited threat to the close sea routes, we need to be aware of the severe nature of effects from events further afield.

"Attacks may be from criminal, non-state or state actors and not even be specifically directed at Ireland but we may be collateral damage."

The maritime forum said the navy needs to be better equipped to destroy mines and IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices).

The forum said this was mentioned in the 2015 White Paper on Defence when it stated the aspiration to "replace the two existing coastal patrol vessels, the LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla with similar vessels with counter-mine and counter-improvised Explosive Device (IED) capabilities".

Forum members said they note that this project is now paused and said it is their view these capabilities can't be delivered without ship replacement.

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