A question of security: Keeping a close eye on Russia

IN 1898 the Skibbereen Eagle newspaper famously warned the Czar of Russia that it was keeping an eye on him.

A question of security: Keeping a close eye on Russia

Fast-forward to 2015 and the Russians still need watching.

On January 28 last, two Russian Tu-95 bombers, equipped with nuclear warheads, came within 80km of Ireland’s coast.

The bombers approached from the Norwegian coast, flying past the west coast of Ireland and into the English Channel before they were escorted back to their point of origin by Britain’s Royal Air Force.

The RAF immediately launched fighter jets to shadow the bombers, while the Norwegian air force scrambled two F-16s.

Any attempt to launch one or two of the Air Corps five ageing planes would have been pointless as they are neither fast enough nor can fly high enough to be of any military benefit in such circumstances.

As revealed in Wednesday’s Irish Examiner, our inability to properly police our own skies makes Ireland Europe’s weakest link in air defence.

This is not simply about national pride or embarrassment that the Russians are laughing at us. It’s about something far more fundamental: the security of our skies and the safety of our people.

We wouldn’t expect the gardaí to conduct a high-speed chase on bicycles, so why do we tolerate the Air Corps being forced to use planes slower than a Skibbereen eagle?

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