Wednesday 21 August 2019

Paris Terror Attacks: Ireland vows to 'cooperate fully' with requests for intelligence sharing from France

Minister Simon Coveney
Minister Simon Coveney

Sarah Collins in Brussels

Ireland has agreed to grant France emergency aid to root out terrorism following the attacks in Paris last weekend.

The move followed a request by French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at meeting of EU defence ministers today, which was met with unanimous approval, according to the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

The request is the first of its kind in the EU’s history, as it invokes a mutual defence clause in the Lisbon Treaty that obliges EU countries help each other “by all the means in their power” if any one of them is a “victim of armed aggression on its territory”.

“France can’t do everything,” Mr Le Drian told reporters after making the request. “We can’t be in the Sahel, and in the Central African Republic, and in Lebanon… and the Levant, and also ensure the security of our national territory,” he said, in French.

It is not yet clear what specific aid EU countries will pledge to France, but Mr Le Drian said it could take the form of pooling defence capabilities to help French forces in Syria, |raq or elsewhere.

Ireland’s Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said on his way into the meeting that Ireland would be willing to “cooperate fully” with any requests to step up intelligence sharing to help France root out future terrorist threats.

“I suspect they’ll be asking for more shared intelligence so that we can actually understand who’s moving where within the European Union and, certainly, from an Irish perspective, we’ll cooperate fully with that,” Mr Coveney said ahead of the meeting in Brussels.

However, Mr Coveney said before the meeting that Ireland would not be making any changes to the law in the fight against terrorism.

The Lisbon Treaty’s mutual defence clause doesn’t require Ireland to give up its cherished principle of neutrality, stating that any defence assistance “shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States”. It clause also refers specifically to the Nato commitments of countries that are members of the military alliance - which Ireland is not.

“We can only use the laws that are actually there,” Mr Coveney said. “I hope we will be able to create a situation where we can allay the security concerns of countries like France, who are coping with an extraordinary tragedy following a terrorist attack, while at the same time staying true to the ideals of the European Union. And that’s a big challenge,” he said.

For the first time since before the crisis hit, Ireland’s defence budget will see a slight rise in 2016, with EUR437 million set aside for new equipment over the next six years.  “We have a reasonably good infrastructure at the moment but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve it,” Mr Coveney said. “When you see the kind of atrocity that we saw in Paris last weekend, obviously every country will look at its own infrastructure to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to reduce the risk of an incident like that happening again,” he said.

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