Government's secret plan to ask Britain for help if attacked
Minister admits we need outside aid THE Government has drawn up a top secret plan to ask British military forces to come to our aid in the event of a terrorist attack from outside the country.
Under the contingency plan, the Republic would rely on RAF Tornado fighters being scrambled from British bases to intercept and shoot down a hijacked airliner heading for a target here or flying towards Britain.
The British taxpayer would have to pay for providing protection for Ireland because successive Irish governments have failed to equip the Defence Forces adequately to deal with threats to our airspace.
Earlier Defence Minister Michael Smith made a unique admission in the Dail effectively that the Republic is reliant on protection from a foreign military power which went unpublicised.
He told Fine Gael's Dinny McGinley on February 19 that the security services had planned for September 11 style attacks but said that it would be improper to discuss the plans in public.
Mr Smith admitted: "However, it is clear that outside assistance would be required."
Yesterday, Mr Smith refused to say which foreign power he expected to provide assistance though it is believed to be Britain.
Mr McGinley said he would demand clarification in the Dail to see if the Government had entered into an agreement with another country for assistance and whether that would come from Britain, America or Nato.
Government sources said Mr Smith's statement reflected reality, though he had made the admission in an "unplanned remark".
The Republic has no jets to defend our airspace and relies on six Bofors RBS-70 surface-to-air missile launchers and a Giraffe surveillance radar.
Recently 32 L-70 radar guided anti-aircraft guns and eight Flycatcher radars were bought second hand from the Royal Netherlands army to boost our defences.
The Minister recently told the Dail that the Office of Emergency Planning was taking the lead role in emergency planning to meet the new threats from global terrorism but said there is no reason to believe Ireland is a direct target.
Mr Smith said yesterday that we had limitations in dealing with the 'nightmare' of a 9/11 style terrorist attack. It was an "extreme circumstance" that had "never happened before" but we would seek assistance from "whoever is closest" to the incident.
He does not intend to reveal more details about the plan to the Dail, saying that security matters were best served by being managed by the security services themselves.
Mr McGinley, however, said Ireland was a soft target because we did not have the wherewithal to defend ourselves. There were many questions left unanswered by the Minister and he intended to raise them in the Dail.