Arms parts trade 'was worth €3bn to economy last year'
THE sale from Ireland of technology that can be used in weapons systems or civilian products was worth more than €6.7bn last year, the Irish Independent has learned.
Human rights groups said last night that the trade in arms components may have been worth €3bn to the economy last year. It had previously been estimated at €1bn annually.
Systems and technology developed and produced in Ireland have in the past been linked to Apache gunship fire control computers used in Lebanon, and to armoured vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Amnesty International said more detailed information was vital to confirm the extent of the current trade.
As revealed in the Irish Independent last year, the first government-commissioned report on Ireland's arms trade is more than a year overdue.
The Government, which has in the past denied Irish involvement in the manufacture or sale of weapon components, has denied the report has been mothballed. It claims it "is in the final stages of preparation".
However, responding to a parliamentary question in the Dail, Billy Kelleher, minister of state at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, has released much of the headline information on military licences without going into detail on the final destination of components.
In 2007, the Government confirmed it granted €33.3m in military export licences. Mr Kelleher revealed the figure has remained largely constant at €30.6m in 2008, and €32.5m last year.
"Dual-use" technology, which can be used in either civilian or weapons products, came in at over €2bn in foreign sales in 2007. That figure remained constant in 2008, but soared to €6.7bn last year.
Both Amnesty and the Labour Party have previously quoted figures that between 40-50pc of dual-use goods produced globally end up in military use. "The value of dual-use export licences in 2009 has almost tripled over the figures for 2008," said Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland.
"That's a staggering increase, but what's missing is the detail. That's the kind of information that must be in the Government's first report on the Irish arms trade," he added.
Mr Kelleher told the Dail that the data "will be elaborated upon" in the first report on the Operation of the Control of Exports Act 2008.