|Check Against Delivery|
Address by Alan Shatter TD
Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence
at the Institute of International and European Affairs
“Green Paper on Defence”
26 September 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address you here today. As most of you will be aware, the first White Paper on Defence was published in 2000 and it continues to provide the defence policy framework some thirteen years later. The Government has decided to produce a new White Paper on Defence and this provides an opportunity to consider the future defence and security environment and to revise our Defence policy accordingly.
I believe that Defence policy is fundamentally important to this State and that we should have a mature discussion about the challenges that we face and debate the policy response required to meet those challenges. In this context, I sought and received Government approval to prepare a Green Paper on Defence, which was published in July 2013.
It is important to recognise also that defence policy does not operate in isolation and instead sits within the broader construct of foreign and security policy as well as the contextual influences of political, social, economic and environmental factors.
The Green Paper provides a comprehensive overview of the current defence policy framework and sets out an assessment of the defence and security environment. It does not aim to be overly prescriptive, rather it seeks to encourage active consideration of defence policy issues and to elicit views as to how we should address domestic, regional and global defence and security challenges. Submissions have been sought as part of a public consultation process and the closing date for such submissions extends to the 10th October 2013.
I would like to take this opportunity to talk about some of the key issues that are set out in the Green Paper and I would be most interested in hearing your views. In this regard, the Institute has kindly agreed to facilitate a discussion at the conclusion of my speech.
Historically, there was a reluctance to formulate an explicit or very specific Defence policy for this State and the publication of a White Paper on Defence in 2000 was in itself a significant landmark achievement.
In looking back, it has proved to be a robust policy framework that contained important decisions which underpinned the development of the Defence Forces into a modern, well-equipped force, with flexible and adaptive capabilities. This has enabled this State to address successfully emergent domestic security and support requirements and to continue to play a full and active role in the maintenance of international peace and security.
Defence and Security Environment
The period since the publication of the White Paper has been marked by significant upheaval and change in the defence and security environment. We have seen the 9/11 attacks in the USA, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the bombings in Bali, London and Madrid. More recently the events in North Africa and the Middle East have shown how the global security situation continues to be unpredictable and unstable.
We have seen how weak and failed States can provide fertile operating grounds for international terrorists and transnational criminal gangs, including those that engage in piracy. The poverty, suffering and inequality that can be found where there is protracted conflict or corrupt regimes, can lead to disaffection and make some more susceptible to the hate filled messages of extremism. However, experience has also shown that those from affluent backgrounds and Western countries can also be seduced by extremist views and become radicalised.
The implications of Global Warming are becoming increasingly apparent and this creates a potential for conflicts linked to competition for scarce or newly accessible resources. Although, the risk of inter-State conflict affecting EU countries has diminished and is assessed as low, elsewhere in the world we have seen that the instability caused by weak, failed or rogue States has the potential to provoke broader conflicts. Territorial disputes can also create tension and flashpoints. Concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction also remain and recent events in Syria have brought into sharp focus the grim reality and potential risks associated with such weapons.
Globalisation has continued apace and whilst the debate about its pros and cons continues, the fact is that we are now more closely linked and dependent on others than ever before. This has many positive benefits. However, it can lead also to new and diverse risks. We are highly dependent on external trade links and are reliant on the unimpeded movement of goods for our economic well being.
Any disruption of this movement of goods or services is of concern as Irish businesses try to grow exports to new and emerging markets. Our increased reliance on technology, in all facets of our lives and business processes, has also created a potential vulnerability that can be exploited by those who have the means and knowledge to do so. Cyber crime and cyber attacks, both nationally and internationally, have heightened awareness of these vulnerabilities.
At home, the Good Friday Agreement has delivered a stable peace process that commands overwhelming cross community support. However, so called “dissident” republican groups, with very limited levels of support, remain intent on disrupting the progress that has been achieved. We have seen that security risks that were previously associated with subversive paramilitaries are now also associated with criminal gangs.
The nature and complexity of the security challenges in today’s world require responses that are frequently beyond the capacity of even the largest States. Borders and geographical location no longer provide the same degree of protection as they did in the past. There is an increased reliance on collective security co-operation and a need for comprehensive responses. Ireland has long been a strong advocate of the United Nations and the collective approach to security and this is reflected in the current defence policy framework, which enjoys a broad consensus.
The EU has seen significant change in the period since 2000 and Ireland has actively participated in the development of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy. The approval of the constitutional amendments required to ratify the Nice and Lisbon treaties underpins this participation.
This engagement has served to consolidate and strengthen Ireland’s participation as a whole within the EU and has further underlined our commitment to a comprehensive approach in addressing security challenges.
Flowing from Ireland’s commitment in the UN and EU contexts, and consistent with our policy of military neutrality, the deployment of the Defence Forces on overseas peace support operations continues to provide an active and very tangible demonstration of Ireland’s commitment to supporting the maintenance of international peace and security.
Domestically, our Defence Forces remain a key constituent of the State’s security architecture and continue to deliver a broad range of security and other support services on a day-to-day basis. The Army and Air Corps continue to provide armed support to An Garda Síochána, for example in the transit of cash and in prisoner escorts. The use of improvised explosive devices by criminals within the State requires a major ongoing response from Defence Forces Explosive Ordnance Disposal, which continues to increase.
The Naval Service is the State’s principal sea-going agency and continues to undertake a range of security and support tasks including, in conjunction with the Air Corps, surveillance and patrolling of the State’s very significant maritime domain. The Air Corps also undertakes other tasks in support to the civil authority utilising both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
International Collective Security Co-operation
I think it is reasonable to assume that complex, inter-related and transnational security challenges will continue into the future. The range of threats set out in the assessment in the Green Paper is comprehensive. However, inevitably there will be threats and challenges that have not yet been anticipated. It is also reasonable to conclude that security challenges will continue to require a collective and comprehensive approach and that there will be an increasing emphasis on security co-operation.
In this context, it is worth appraising how we currently approach international defence and security co-operation with a view to ensuring that our approach meets likely future requirements.
The Green Paper outlines the legislation governing the dispatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force on overseas peace support operations. Ireland has accorded central importance to the United Nations since it became a member in 1955. Ireland is a strong supporter of the UN and in accordance with Article 24 of the UN Charter respects the primary responsibility of the UN Security Council in relation to the maintenance of International Peace and Security.
The Defence Acts govern the legal requirements for the dispatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force on overseas peace support operations. The requirement for a UN resolution as part of the “triple lock” reflects the central importance of the UN in granting legitimacy to peace support and crisis management missions.
At the same time, it also constitutes a self imposed, legal constraint on the State’s sovereignty in making decisions about the use of its armed forces in an overseas context.
The benefits of a formal legislative requirement for UN authorisation must be weighed against the possibility that this constraint may lead to an inability to act on occasions where there is a pressing moral or security imperative and overwhelming international support to do so, but where UN sanction is not forthcoming, in circumstances where a veto is exercised by a permanent member of the Security Council acting in its own national interests.
Some equate the need for UN authorization to participate in peace keeping or peace enforcement missions with Ireland’s military neutrality. An interesting question is whether there is any validity in such connectivity and whether this requirement, in fact, undermines our neutrality by creating a barrier to our sovereign entitlement to make judgments on such matters by decision of our parliament? It can be argued that the Triple Lock Mechanism facilitates our being prevented from participating in peace keeping missions by the national vested interest view of a single member of the Security Council and that this is a diminution of our Sovereignty as opposed to a reaffirmation of our military neutrality. A further question, of course, is does this matter?
The Green Paper acknowledges that there is substantial public support for the triple lock mechanism and that, in practical terms, due to the size of our Defence Forces, the State has only a limited capacity to contribute to UN Missions.
The Green Paper notes that in real terms Ireland has, in the context of its size, punched above its weight and made a valuable, disproportionate contribution and, save for the example of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, has not been excluded from peace keeping engagements by the triple lock.
On balance, the advantages of retaining the mechanism can be seen as outweighing the disadvantages. However, it is an issue worthy of discussion in advance of the adoption of a new White Paper.
Another key consideration is: how can our policy of military neutrality be dovetailed with increasing requirements for collective security co-operation? As set out in the Green Paper, our traditional policy of military neutrality was formed in an era when inter-State conflict was the key issue of national security for most States. The State’s policy of remaining outside of military alliances has remained in place ever since. Thankfully, the threat of inter-State war in Europe is diminished.
Our Defence Forces are deployed as part of multi-national and multi-agency responses for a broad range of security tasks, many of which contribute to the maintenance of international peace and stability. I believe that, given the type of security and economic challenges that we now face, practical measures such as the pooling and sharing of equipment for use in peace support and crisis management operations are of vital importance.
Our policy responses must reflect current and future security challenges and should be able to accommodate these and similar arrangements, without prejudice to our policy of military neutrality.
Operational Demands and Capabilities
Participation in overseas peacekeeping missions is a key element of Ireland’s foreign policy. It has been an important dimension in meeting Ireland’s international obligations as a member of the UN and the EU. It has also been a key factor in Ireland’s influence and credibility in the international arena and in advancing Ireland’s foreign policy interests.
Unfortunately, despite the ongoing efforts of the UN and other international organisations involved in conflict resolution, the continuing need for peacekeepers has never been greater. In order to address these complex challenges, peacekeeping operations have grown in number, complexity and robustness.
Chapter Eight of the UN Charter has always provided for the use of Regional Organisations to undertake operations on behalf of the UN. The UN has increasingly turned to regional organisations, including the European Union, NATO and the African Union (AU), amongst others, to undertake and lead missions on its behalf. There has also been an increased reliance on robust Chapter 7 missions.
Our participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace has facilitated the development of the interoperability that is necessary to jointly deploy with other nations in undertaking UN mandated peace support and crisis management operations.
Our Defence Forces have operated successfully alongside troops from Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands in NATO-led, EU-led and UN-led operations. This is likely to be an on-going trend. The type of capabilities that may be required and the types of operations to which we can best contribute, and afford, in the coming years must be considered carefully.
Other security and support requirements must be considered also. Ireland has a predominantly unarmed police force and the provision of ongoing support to An Garda Síochána must be kept under review in light of security requirements. In the maritime domain, the scope to pursue economic opportunities more fully, together with the possibility of increased investment in off-shore infrastructure arising from an expanded area of interest, may bring new security implications.
In the Emergency Planning sphere, the contingent capabilities that the Defence Forces and Civil Defence can bring to bear, are a key part of the planned response to many major emergency scenarios.
The response to the cyber threat remains a whole of Government challenge with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources taking the lead role, with inputs in the security domain from An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces.
We must also consider if there is scope for defence to contribute further to economic development and recovery through further engagement with Irish enterprise, research and education sectors.
In July 2011, the Government approved an approach whereby Enterprise Ireland supports the Defence Organisation through raising awareness of and engaging with Irish based enterprise and research institutes that are engaged in relevant activities related to Defence Forces’ capability development.
The primary objective is to support Defence Forces capability development and also to support innovation, growth and jobs in Irish industry, particularly in the security and defence (dual use) sector.
In addition, the Government also agreed that Enterprise Ireland could also support Irish based enterprise and research institutes and the Department of Defence and Defence Forces capability development, where appropriate in relation to European Defence Agency ongoing activities. As outlined in the Green Paper, there are a range of projects that are currently being supported.
Future security requirements and likely operational demands provide the context for deciding on future capabilities; however, finance is always a limiting factor.
In the current economic climate, most countries have had to take greater financial constraints into account in their evolving approach to Defence. Notwithstanding the continued downward pressure on Government expenditure in general, it is important that we maintain a balanced perspective with regard to expenditure resourcing decisions.
The resource management approach based on the previous White Paper, was highly prudential in nature compared to many other sectors and through careful stewardship ensured that Ireland had the Defence Organisation capable of contributing in a very substantive way to Ireland’s standing internationally and provide a significant underpinning to wider national policies.
The capacity to be able to deploy highly-trained, professional and well-equipped personnel in a wide variety of missions, including international lead-roles, remains a national strategic policy requirement.
The nature of the contribution of the Defence Organisation to domestic, regional and global security is such that success is measured by stability, the containment of conflict and the mitigation of security risks.
Paradoxically, success can breed complacency and lead to an incorrect assumption that we do not face security risks. As defence is an area of public expenditure where the impact of cuts is not immediately evident to the general public, it is critically important that we clearly articulate the rationale underpinning expenditure and funding requirements.
There are many factors, including cultural and historical influences, which inform the formulation of defence policy and the level of resourcing assigned to defence. Countries within the same regions have differing views on appropriate levels of defence expenditure and differing approaches to providing for their defence requirements, even within a shared view of security threats.
Ireland’s spend on defence, as a proportion of GDP, is one of the lowest in the EU whilst Ireland’s Defence Forces are assigned wider roles than those of the defence forces of most member States. Any consideration of defence resourcing must have due regard to these facts.
The on-going reform agenda in the Defence Organisation, has played a significant role in maintaining defence capabilities and outputs within the current reduced resource envelope. Many of you will be aware of initiatives such as the recent major reorganisation of the Defence Forces, both Permanent and Reserve. This has consolidated the number of Army Units within a two Brigade structure, re-balanced the force distribution and redeployed personnel from administrative and support functions to operational units.
In addition, although it is not widely known, the Department of Defence has also significantly downsized in recent years and the Department is also fully engaged with a range of initiatives aimed at delivering further efficiencies within the Civil Service.
I would like to acknowledge the significant work that has been undertaken by the Secretary General and Chief of Staff in leading and managing such significant changes.
With approximately 74% of Defence Vote 36 expenditure now accounted for by pay and the remaining 26% providing for running costs as well as major equipment, it will be extremely challenging to maintain existing capabilities within the current resource envelope. This is the reality that we face and it is one where the prioritisation of scarce resources and trade-offs between capabilities must be weighed against the implications of such decisions.
It is more critical than ever that new ways of addressing the challenges posed by resource constraints are considered. These priorities will put a premium on innovative approaches that ensure capability provision within the defence policy context and the contribution it can make to broader political, social, economic and environmental policies.
Our approach to capability development must build in sufficient flexibility to deal with evolving operational requirements and the likely funding resources available.
My central message from the Green Paper is that Defence matters and is critical to national well-being and the exercise of sovereignty. We look to ensure that in the forthcoming White Paper that Defence policy and implementation are taken forward in a very active and positive way.
I have repeatedly stated that, for me, a key rationale underpinning the publication of the Green Paper was to underpin a broad consultative process. I am conscious that many of you will have read the entire document and in some cases will be making formal submissions, which I look forward to reviewing.
This event today also provides the opportunity for an exchange of views. As the consultation process is very much ongoing, the IIEA have kindly agreed to a departure from the traditional Q and A approach with a view to providing an opportunity for all here to contribute their views.
I have deliberately focused on key issues outlined in the Green Paper in order to maximize the time available for discussion.
We may not all share similar views, but that is the value of an event like this. It provides an opportunity for individuals to set out their position on the questions raised in the Green Paper and for open and mature discussion. I am very much looking forward to listening to your opinions and I would like to thank you all, in advance, for your participation.
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