herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Ireland spends same on defence as tiny Andorra

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney

IRELAND'S average spending on defence is now comparable to that of Andorra, Luxembourg and Guatemala.

The revelation came as Ireland now faces mounting pressure to increase defence spending as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Spending on defence has plummeted to 0.5pc of GDP following six years of savage budgetary cutbacks.

Countries like Germany and France have both indicated they will now increase defence spending as a percentage of GDP given the growing security threats facing Europe.

FUNDING

Defence Minister Simon Coveney is now expected to seek a 'ring-fencing' of army, navy and air corps funding over the next decade.

The move is part of a white paper document on defence forces development to 2025.

It is the first major defence blueprint since the Price Waterhouse report 16 years ago which resulted in major land disposals but delivered investment in key army, navy and air corps equipment.

Mr Coveney, supported by senior army, navy, air corps and marine chiefs, including the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), is arguing that the services have amply demonstrated over the past decade what they can achieve through critical investment.

The Defence Forces are now considered amongst the United Nations' premier peacekeepers and provide the rapid reaction force in the Golan Heights in Syria.

The Naval Service has been instrumental in three of Europe's biggest offshore cocaine interdictions to a total value of almost €1bn since 2007.

Over 1,000 boardings of fishing vessels were conducted in 2013 - with 300 fishing vessels now in Irish waters day.

slashed

But Ireland slashed defence spending by 24pc since 2008 - with the allocation for the army, navy and air corps falling from €888m down to €677m last year.

The overall defence budget of €898m includes an annual provision of €221m for pensions.

While the Department of Defence has agreed spending controls for 2014/2015 with the Department of Finance, the ten-year plan will involve significant capital demands for all three services.

The navy is committed to spending €150m on three new patrol ships, one of which (LE Samuel Beckett) has already been delivered.

However, its eight-ship fleet was the minimum recommended by the PriceWaterhouse report with Ireland's Atlantic patrol zone having doubled in size since then.

That capital spending of €150 mon three new ships equates to almost 25pc of an entire year's defence budget.

It has further emerged that €1bn worth of fish are dumped, damaged or illegally taken from Irish waters every year.

hnews@herald.ie

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