My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government, including overseas deployments.
As I outlined to the House in response to Parliamentary Question No. 27 of 7 November 2019, the principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts is used by the Department of Defence for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures is the requirement to allow fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders following advertising of the tender competition on the e-tenders site and on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), where appropriate, in line with the EU Procurement Directives, including the Defence and Security Directive.
Such tender competitions are open to any company or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargos or restrictions.
In following these guidelines and codes, the Department of Defence must deal impartially with all bidders that are entitled to enter procurement competitions and must evaluate tenders on the basis of objective criteria.
With regard to engagement at EU level regarding policy governing the purchase, sale or tendering for defensive equipment from countries that may violate international law or human rights, these matters remain the responsibility of my colleagues the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Trade policy and market access are largely EU competencies and any restriction or ban on imports from any particular country would have to be concerted at EU level.
The manner in which the Department of Defence procures both goods and services remains consistent with international best practice and is in line with EU and UN decisions on trade embargos. I am satisfied that this is an appropriate way in which to continue, rather than Ireland taking any unilateral decision to target individual companies or countries in that respect. In the absence of a general trade embargo, the Department of Defence cannot unilaterally preclude companies from participating in tender competitions for military equipment or any other type of goods.