Coveney: we face terror threat
Elite Army Ranger unit to be expanded with new ships, aircraft and armoured personnel carriers
Defence Minister Simon Coveney has said Ireland faces more complex security threats than ever before, with international terrorism, radicalisation and cyber security among the new challenges.
The new defence white paper, which was launched by the minister in Dublin Castle yesterday, will see new armoured personnel carriers for the Army, three new vessels for the Naval Service to ensures its fleet is maintained at eight, and replacements of the CASA maritime patrol and Cessna aircraft in the Air Corps.
More specialist niche units are also to be developed in the Defence Forces as the military prepares to meet an expanded role in the future. This will involve an increase of 50pc of the strength of the current elite unit, the Army Ranger Wing.
Mr Coveney said Ireland's defence focus had changed significantly and that we now face a raft of new challenges, including international terrorism,
"Traditionally, Ireland has taken a view that everybody likes the Irish, so therefore there is no military threat to Ireland.
"And I think traditionally our focus on defence has been related to Northern Ireland and the Troubles there and international peacekeeping, but not a whole lot else. This white paper develops significantly our ambitions."
He said Ireland had been under-investing in defence and currently has the second-lowest defence spend in Europe.
The white paper, which plots out the future of our military for the next decade, plans to replace the CASA maritime surveillance craft with larger and more capable craft,
The Naval Service's existing eight-vessel fleet is considered to be a minimum requirement.
However, if additional funding becomes available, Mr Coveney said, then the acquisition of additional ships will be a priority for the service.
The minister said he was impressed with the performance of the Ranger Wing, which is currently operating at its existing establishment strength of around 100.
It is due to be expanded by 50pc during the lifetime of the white paper. A new recruitment programme for Rangers will begin shortly.
The tough standards set on the course result in a high attrition rate and by the end of the five-phase programme only about a sixth of those who started out will be successful and be taken into the Wing.
The Rangers will be given an enhanced role and will train to deal with challenges ranging from counter-terrorism to public riots.
Mr Coveney again ruled out any more barracks closures and said the military's strength would not be allowed to fall below the base level of 9,500 after the present recruitment campaign has brought numbers back up to that level.