European Defence Agency Projects: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves Ireland's participation in an EDA Category A Project on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Protection and an EDA Category B Project on Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) pursuant to section 2 of the Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.

I will provide some brief information on the reason the Government is presenting this motion and approving Ireland's participation in these two projects. In commending the motion to the House, I will briefly outline the function of the European Defence Agency, EDA, and the background to the two programmes in which Ireland wishes to participate.

Following the Government's approval, Ireland joined the EDA when it was established during the Irish EU Presidency in 2004. Ireland participates in the framework of the agency and I represent Ireland on the EDA steering board along with defence Ministers of all participating EU member states.

Since its inception, the EDA has made significant progress on the development of many military capability projects and programmes in support of EU crisis management. The primary reason for Ireland's participation in the EDA, is to support the ongoing development of Defence Forces capabilities for international peace support operations. One example is improved communications and network systems for use on the ground in operations.

The two projects identified, chemical biological radiological and nuclear, CBRN, and maritime surveillance networking, MARSUR, will further contribute to Defence Forces capability development. I fully support the Defence Forces participation in these projects. Pursuant to the provisions of the Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 I am seeking Dáil approval for Ireland's' participation in them.

The joint investment programme on CBRN has been initiated between the EDA, the European Commission and the European Space Agency. Intelligence-based threat assessments at national, EU and international level, all indicate an increased likelihood of terrorist organisations and insurgencies using chemical, biological or radiological agents, against both military and civilian targets. Apart from possible international threats, there are also potential national threats in this area. It is recognised that non-state actors and organised criminal groups could develop the capability to use improvised CBRN devices.

Regardless of the source of any CBRN hazard, an attack or exposure could inflict major casualties amongst security forces, emergency responders and unprotected civilians. There is also the potential for CBRN hazards to arise from accidents or natural disasters as was the case following the tsunami in Japan recently.

One of the primary reasons for our involvement in the CBRN area is to ensure the safety and improve the capacity of the Defence Forces operating in a CBRN environment. The scope of the EDA project on CBRN ranges from the identification of emerging technology to CBRN protection as an operational capability. The programme will involve research, technology development and demonstration activities.

The MARSUR project will facilitate a group of interested member states joining together to further develop a recognised maritime picture, RMP, exchange network. New developments will include modifications to improve data exchange, allowing for secure exchange of confidential or sensitive information, using data from a range of systems and covering different maritime areas. The nature and level of information exchanged is determined, monitored and controlled by each participating member state.

In developing the RMP exchange, network, the European Union, including Ireland, will be better able to combat drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal immigration and migration and international terrorism. Better exchange of information will also play a part in protecting maritime trade, the maritime environment and natural resources.

The MARSUR network also has a role to play on the economic and industrial front. Ireland's maritime area contains natural resources with a potential value in excess of a trillion euro including mineral deposits, fossil fuels, marine life, fisheries and wind and wave energy. Marine transport leisure and tourism, seafood, renewable ocean energy and marine biotechnology are niche areas that can contribute to Ireland's economic recovery and are, therefore, worth protecting.

Ireland's involvement in this project will enhance information sharing and knowledge transfer between member states and build working relationships based on mutual trust with other European agencies at the operational level. Through our involvement in drug seizures, success depends on the co-operation of our national and international partners.

The cost of participating in the two projects will be met from the proposed allocations for the Department of Defence. Participation in the CBRN project will be approximately €150,000 over four years while participation in the MARSUR project is estimated at €105,000 over three years.

Both projects will deliver benefits in enhancing Defence Forces capabilities. The CBRN project will offer the Defence Forces access to research, studies and developments arising from the project that will complement work undertaken and investments made over the past several years by the Defence Forces. Participation in the MARSUR project will play a major part in the fight against drug trafficking, in the protection of our natural resources and in safety and security at sea.

Fianna Fáil will support this motion. The Minister has outlined the benefits of both initiatives. The MARSUR project is of particular interest to me as I believe we have failed to maximise the value of our maritime resources. As the Minister stated, participation in this programme will allow us to gain information about fisheries stock management, as well as the better use of our maritime resources such as wind and wave energy production. Given the extent of our coastline, we have a serious problem with illegal drug importation. Any project that can assist us in tackling this problem must be supported.

The nuclear accident in Japan earlier this year highlighted the type of non-terrorist attack threat posed by natural disasters outside our control. We must ensure Ireland plays its role in European investigation of such events.

Even ten years on from 9/11, chemical weapons are a threat to the world and to Ireland, regardless of its neutrality. It would be criminal for us to decide to distance ourselves from any efforts to tackle this threat.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this motion today. The draft schedule of this week's Dáil business circulated last Thursday had this issue down for approval without debate which would have been regrettable. As I have always stated the importance of discussing all defence motions, I welcome the decision to have a debate on the motion.

The motion at first glance seems to be innocuous enough. Most Irish people would agree Ireland should be involved in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, CBRN, protection. Sinn Féin has always been opposed to nuclear energy for safety reasons and it will continue to oppose the use of nuclear energy. On checking the EDA website to get some background information I noticed this quote:

Despite arms control agreements and initiatives, some nations and some non-state actors continue to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear capabilities. This trend is most pronounced in areas of chronic political instability where the EU may be called upon to mount operations.

Additionally there have been many instances of terrorist and other ad hoc groupings that embrace CBRN technologies as a powerful means of pursuing their interests.

To address these risks, the EDA, in its own words, has been successfully tackling CBRN capability development issues since the beginning of 2006 with good and tangible results.

The maritime surveillance project asks Ireland to sign up as willing participants to monitor "activities, associated with and occurring in the maritime domain, which could impact on the security, safety and environment of the European Union and its member states". In 2006 when this project was officially launched, the aim was to create a network whose overall goal was to avoid duplication of efforts in this area by using existing naval and maritime information exchange systems.

While we all agree on co-operation to tackle illegal drug importation and human trafficking, I am more than uneasy with the term military co-operation. The question always remains "co-operation with whom exactly?". A 2008 document on the EDA website concerning EU-NATO collaboration and the role of the EDA gives us some insight into this question. It states:

The fact that EU member states that are also NATO allies have only one set of armed forces and must optimise their available resources means that coherence between the EU and NATO is an absolute necessity. The two organisations simply must co-ordinate their activities. Existing NATO standards, concepts and military requirements should be used wherever applicable.

Regarding CBRN issues, this document further stated: "With regard to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, the EDA mainly focuses on biological threats while NATO focuses on the chemical threats."

It is obvious the EDA, through the CBRN and MARSUR project, is all about the EU being a vital part of the NATO infrastructure. For this reason, Sinn Féin will oppose this motion.

I oppose the motion. The European Defence Agency, EDA, is about promoting the arms industry. This is not appropriate for any state that is interested in promoting peace. It is certainly not appropriate for a state that claims to be militarily neutral. On any moral ground, we should have nothing to do with a body that was set up for the sole purpose of promoting, developing and expanding the arms industry. Will the Minister or anyone justify the arms industry to me? An obnoxious trade, it is concerned with developing ever more sophisticated means of killing people. It is ironic that Members of the opposite side of the House and members of former Governments often get up on their high horses to denounce violence as being morally obnoxious while supporting Ireland's involvement in an agency whose sole purpose is to assist the companies that specialise in producing lethal weapons.

It is an issue of great concern that the EDA's executive recently told the European Parliament that unmanned drones will be tested in Europe's civilian airspace by 2012. Some of these will be bought from Israel, which has been testing them against Palestinians. According to some estimates, these barbaric instruments have killed as many as 7,000 innocent Afghani men, women and children in horrific bombing raids on villages and towns. It is beyond me why we would have anything to do with an agency or policy that promoted the use of such weapons.

There is no question but that I will oppose the motion. Will the Minister or anyone on the Government side justify support for the arms industry? What is good about it? What possible benefit does it have to humanity and the world? When people are homeless and jobless and lack adequate health and education resources and when there is extraordinary poverty in the world, is it not obscene that Europe and Ireland want to promote an industry that takes resources from those areas humans need to survive and prosper and use them to develop industries designed to produce the means to destroy human life? It is beyond me.

I will oppose the motion strongly. If the Government has any shred of moral sensibility or commitment to the notion of Ireland as a neutral country, we should stand out against the development and expansion of the EDA, which is nothing more than an agency to promote the interests of arms companies that profit from death.

I am sure we all feel better for that. I thank Deputy Calleary for his considered and constructive contribution to this debate. The issues we are dealing with are of importance. I never fail to wonder at what particular world Deputy Boyd Barrett inhabits. He has yet again given us an example of his contrived, selective ideological outrage. I presume he approves of our engagement in peacekeeping. I presume he approves of the Defence Forces engaging in the Lebanon to try to maintain a degree of peace and contribute to a troubled region so that a part of might not be engaged in conflict. I presume he approves of the work done by individuals such as Colonel Mike Beary of our Defence Forces who is trying to train members for an army in Somalia to protect the existing Government there and end the slaughter by the Al-Shabaab group. I recall Deputy Boyd Barrett, in his detestation of NATO, believing that the residents of Bin Ghazi should be left to be slaughtered by Colonel Gadaffi's forces when the French and the British intervened to try to prevent the murder and mayhem that Colonel Gadaffi intended. If we lived in an ideal world, no one would have guns, but it seems to be his perception that, when the Defence Forces are engaged in serious peacekeeping operations, they should be equipped with water pistols rather than any meaningful military supports of any description.

This project is not about armaments, their manufacture or spreading them around the world. In the context of EDA programmes, Ireland participates in the joint investment programme on force protection. This is a research and technology programme that focuses on technologies for protecting EU armed forces against threats such as snipers, booby traps and improvised bombs. Force protection involves measures to protect defence forces engaged in peace support and crisis management operations overseas. It is one of the main factors considered when undertaking any operation. As such, the development of enhanced capabilities in this area is one in which our Defence Forces have a great interest. It was only last week that a report was published about the circumstances in which three members of the Defence Forces tragically lost their lives in 1989 as a consequence of an improvised explosive device. Are we supposed to send our Defence Forces out untrained, helpless and without modern technology to ensure that they can properly engage——

Does the EDA sell arms on the global market?

The Minister without interruption, please.

——in UN peacekeeping operations? Quite clearly the Deputy does not support peacekeeping operations,——

He clearly has not met the families of the three soldiers.

Does the Minister believe in arms sales?

——does not support our Defence Forces and seems to be of the view that we should not engage in humanitarian interventions or peacekeeping operations with our European partners. This State and its Defence Forces have a constructive contribution to make in this regard.

These projects are not just important in these areas — I thank Deputy Calleary for his support again — but also in intercepting those who try to bring drugs ashore in this country and in dealing with those engaged in terrorist activities. It may be comforting to Deputy Boyd Barrett to take the view that we should have no security forces of any description and should leave ourselves liable to the State being used by terrorists to launch an attack on London during the London Olympics. Perhaps we should have no intelligence gathering of any description. This is not the role that I intend the State to play, nor is it the role that the Government intends to play.

The projects that I have brought to the attention of the House also offer potential for Irish-based enterprises and research institutes to participate in the development of new technologies and to create commercial opportunities to exploit these technologies in other markets. Enterprise Ireland will promote and manage any aspect of Irish research and development participation in these two EDA projects in association with the Department of Defence and within the scope of its functions and areas of competence as well as providing for our engagement at the frontiers of technological development. What has been proposed to the House also creates the potential for some additional employment in worthwhile projects in this State. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 108; Níl, 18.

  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O’Connor, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Donovan, Patrick.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Joan Collins.
Question declared carried.