Work 'ongoing' on delayed security strategy, insists Government

Work 'ongoing' on delayed security strategy, insists Government

Last year's HSE cyberattack highlighted the need for an enhanced, better coordinated national security strategy.

The Government has said work is “ongoing” on its long-awaited National Security Strategy, citing Covid and international and domestic developments as reasons for the delay.

The strategy, the country’s first, was due to the published more than two years ago and was supposed to cover the period 2020-2025.

Concerns have been expressed by some security experts at the absence of a national strategy and the output of the National Security Analysis Centre (NSAC), which was set up in 2019 and charged with developing the document.

The creation of the analysis centre, within the Department of the Taoiseach, was a key recommendation of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CFPI), which published its report in September 2018.

This week, a member of the now-defunct CFPI, said a “number of dramatic events threatening national security” have occurred since the commission’s report called for the centre to be “immediately” set up and provide an “authoritative” source of advice to the Government.

HSE cyberattack

Donncha O’Connell, professor of law at NUI Galway, said the need for “significantly enhanced national security capacity and improved co-ordination” was highlighted by the cyberattack on the HSE last year and Russia’s war on Ukraine this year.

He said the Commission on the Defence Forces, published last January, said an "overarching legal and governance framework" was urgently needed to clarify roles of gardaí and Defence Forces and improve their collaboration.

He also said NSAC needed to be put on a statutory footing .

A number of questions were put to the Department of the Taoiseach about NSAC, including what documents or briefings had been produced by the centre since its establishment.

In a statement, the department said: “It is not the practice to disclose detailed information about any individual briefings or documents that are produced given that the matters at hand are security sensitive.

“That said, matters relating to cybersecurity, the situation in Ukraine and the evolution of hybrid threats have been among the subjects of the centre’s recent work given the nature of recent developments in the security landscape.” 

On the status of the National Security Strategy 2020-2015, it said: “Work is ongoing on developing a national security strategy, and while this process was necessarily constrained by the Covid-19 pandemic, planning, consultation and analysis in preparing the draft strategy continued during this period.

“Further work is ongoing to reflect more recent security and defence developments, and related impacts, particularly those arising in the international environment.” 

Leadership queries

On questions as to the leadership of the centre, the statement said that Dermot Woods, appointed in July 2019, remained director, but had “other responsibilities”.

Mr Woods is assistant secretary, responsible for the Government Secretariat, which co-ordinates the business of Government meetings, including the preparation of agendas, the circulation of memoranda, and the communication of decisions.

Richard Browne was appointed deputy director of NSAC in October 2020 but was appointed acting director of a sister intelligence body, the National Cyber Security Centre, in July 2021, before being formally appointed director of NCSC last January.

The department’s statement said: “While there have been a number of personnel changes due to promotions and rotations, including the departure on promotion of the deputy director, arrangements are in train to fill those positions.” 

It said NSAC has secondment and liaison arrangements with the departments of Foreign Affairs; Justice; Defence and Environment, Climate and Communications; An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces.

In line with previous answers, the department declined to give information on budgets, staffing, or secondment levels in the centre.

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