Saturday 25 March 2017

Army officers issue stark warning on terror threat

Medical personnel put a body into the back of an ambulance after the shoot-out in Saint Denis
Medical personnel put a body into the back of an ambulance after the shoot-out in Saint Denis
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Military officers have sent a stark warning to the Government that Ireland does not have the resources to deal with an ongoing terrorist threat.

They say the Defence Forces have the capacity to cope with a single terror strike.

But they are concerned about the lack of 'top-end' equipment needed to ensure that they can confront threats on a continual basis.

However, their claim was later rejected by Defence Minister Simon Coveney, who said he had been advised by Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, that the Defence Forces had the capacity to undertake all roles assigned to them.

Mr Coveney also said the first response to any terrorist threat would come from the gardaí and not the Defence Forces.

Officers told Mr Coveney that Friday night's atrocity in Paris had underlined that the threat was now close to our shores and Ireland was vulnerable.

But the minister told the officers they should refrain from statements that could create fear among the public.

The warning was issued by Comdt Earnan Naughton, general secretary of Raco, the representative association for officers in the Defence Forces ,and came as Mr Coveney and his senior advisers studied a range of options that could be adopted by Ireland in response to the French call for help at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.

The most likely option is to send more Irish peacekeeping troops to a mission in Mali, in western Africa.

This would allow the French to withdraw some of their soldiers from there for deployment elsewhere.

Comdt Naughton made his remarks at Raco's annual conference in Naas, Co Kildare. He said the level of the terror threat had now been clearly identified and it was time for an analysis of the military capabilities to deal with it.

He called for the funding to be made available immediately to purchase the necessary "top-end" equipment to engage in military operations, including aircraft and radar to monitor unauthorised flights by foreign planes in Irish air space.

"Why delay?" he asked. "We have seen what happened in Paris recently."

He acknowledged a small increase in the defence budget for the first time in several years, but said officers were concerned the funding was not available at present to buy what is needed.

Equipment

Mr Coveney insisted that the military has the capacity to deal with a serious incident and is constantly re-assessing their capabilities as the nature of the threat to Ireland changes.

He said if Ireland agrees to fill the gap in the event of the French withdrawing some of their troops from Mali to fulfil their security responsibilities at home, it would not be a breach of our neutrality stance.

Vice Admiral Mellett said he was satisfied that the Defence Forces have the capacity to undertake any tasks required by the Government.

The conference also heard officers are leaving the Defence Forces in their droves to take up more lucrative posts in the private sector. An estimated 136 officers have left in what as being described as a "brain drain" over the past two years.

Irish Independent

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