I thank the Deputy for raising this question because it is an important one. Arising from the recommendations in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing, a new national security analysis centre was established during 2019 under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach. The purpose of the new centre is to co-ordinate between the various State bodies with national security functions and to provide strategic analysis for the Government on security threats.
Defence policy and operations form a centrally important aspect of this work, given the nature of the threat environment. In this regard, NSAC commenced work on the development of a national security strategy in 2019. The strategy will aim to set out a whole-of-government approach for how the State can protect its national security and vital interests from current and emerging threats. An expert policy forum and a public consultation process have provided significant inputs for this process. While further consultation has been constrained by the restrictions necessitated by Covid-19, the centre has continued its research activity in this regard over the recent months.
A director has been appointed to lead the NSAC and a number of support staff have been appointed. A number of personnel with a range of expertise have been assigned from the partner bodies to the centre, including two experienced personnel from the defence organisation, one civil and one military, who were seconded in 2019.
The national cybersecurity centre, NCSC, which is part of the Department with responsibility for the environment, climate and communications, is the primary authority responsible for cybersecurity in the State, including incident response, cyber resilience and information provision. The NCSC maintains a significant threat intelligence capability and this is a key tool in the work of the NCSC in mitigating risks to the State and its people from cybersecurity threats. The NCSC works closely with the Defence Forces in this regard. While the primary role of the Defence Forces with regard to cybersecurity relates to the defence and security of its own networks and systems, the defence organisation is committed to participating in the delivery of measures to improve the cybersecurity of the State. This is being done in line with the programme for Government commitment to implement the national cybersecurity strategy.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Ireland’s current national cybersecurity strategy was published in December 2019 and follows on from the country's first strategy, which issued in 2015. There is a particular emphasis in the strategy on improving the protection of government ICT and other critical national infrastructure; on education, research and training, and on enhancing Ireland’s international engagement. My Department and the Defence Forces have inputted to the development of this strategy. Department officials and the Defence Forces are also actively involved in the implementation of the new strategy which, in conjunction with the White Paper on Defence 2015, will continue to inform our engagement in this critical area. This includes work to develop an updated and detailed risk assessment of the current vulnerability of all critical national infrastructure and services to cyberattacks and the provision of a member of the Defence Forces for secondment to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia. In addition, my Department actively participates on the interdepartmental committee overseeing implementation of the strategy, which is chaired by the Department with responsibility for the Environment, Climate and Communications.