Ireland: dealing with NAT
where the experts come to talk

Ireland: dealing with NATO and neutrality

Ireland has been a partner of NATO since the 1990s. So how has this sat with the country's famed neutral status? And what benefit does it bring to either side? NATO Review interviews Ireland's Defence Minister to find out.

Ireland,

dealing with NATO and neutrality

Minister, how important is it for

a militarily neutral country like Ireland

to be in partnership

with an organisation like NATO?

Well, of course, Ireland has had

a traditional stance of neutrality

in the context of certain aspects

of international issues.

That concept of neutrality of course

doesn’t have any major relevance

in the fight against terrorism or

in dealing with cyber security issues,

in dealing

with some of the real threats

that Europe and Ireland

have to address today.

It's important that we are involved

in the partnership

for peace arrangement with NATO.

We’ve been there since 1999.

It ensures that we can operate

with skill levels

that NATO operates at. We can...

It facilitates us in engaging

in UN peacekeeping missions.

Insurgents in Afghanistan

have made extensive use

of IEDs

or Improvised Explosive Devices.

Ireland has unique experience

in countering this threat.

How has this been applied

in Afghanistan?

Firstly I think it’s a very

important niche area of expertise.

We provide training in that area,

as well as engaging in what

is necessary to neutralise IEDs.

Unfortunately and tragically,

it’s a skill that was developed

and honed in Ireland during

the difficulties in Northern Ireland

and the troubles that we had

over 30 years with subversive groups

using Improvised Explosive Devices.

Of course, it is largely

peaceful in Ireland now,

although we have a remnant

of subversives engaged in

what I regularly

describe as criminal terrorism.

This is still an issue though

on the island

because IEDs became a weapon

that some of those engaged

in organised crime are using.

They’re using it in battles that

gangs are fighting with each other.

So, we would still have

in Ireland today our defence forces

essentially in aid of our police force,

being called out

to neutralise these weapons.

In the region of ninety

such call-outs occurred during 2012.

NATO has experienced an image

problem in some neutral countries.

How was that played out in Ireland?

I think the Irish public very

substantially support our troops

in engaging in peace missions.

The NATO PfP arrangement

that we’re party to,

hasn’t given rise

to any difficulty in Ireland.

It would be accurate to say

that the vast majority of the public

don’t tune in to these things.

There’s always in Ireland

a very small group of people

who view these things

with an ideological perspective,

who you simply mention

NATO to and they get overexcited,

but as you know, we had

the Secretary-General of NATO

in Ireland for our defence informal.

It was very valuable

that he was able to come

to this informal meeting

of EU Defence ministers

and address issues

of mutual concern.

And it is relevant when 21 of

the EU states are members of NATO.

We’ve heard today

that a change in mind-set is needed

from a national perspective

to a more international perspective.

Do you feel the political will

is there to do that?

I think the strange benefit

of the current financial difficulties

where all EU countries are looking

as to how they can reduce

expenditure, control expenditure,

where it’s understood across

the defence areas in the ministries

that there is unlikely to be

additional funding over the next years

and there could be further cutbacks.

That’s creating a beneficial pressure

to cooperate to a greater degree.

And I think we can do

things a lot more efficiently,

use resources more wisely

by engaging in greater cooperation

than we have done to-date

and indeed by focusing on

what are the common interests

of the member states in Europe.

Ireland,

dealing with NATO and neutrality

Minister, how important is it for

a militarily neutral country like Ireland

to be in partnership

with an organisation like NATO?

Well, of course, Ireland has had

a traditional stance of neutrality

in the context of certain aspects

of international issues.

That concept of neutrality of course

doesn’t have any major relevance

in the fight against terrorism or

in dealing with cyber security issues,

in dealing

with some of the real threats

that Europe and Ireland

have to address today.

It's important that we are involved

in the partnership

for peace arrangement with NATO.

We’ve been there since 1999.

It ensures that we can operate

with skill levels

that NATO operates at. We can...

It facilitates us in engaging

in UN peacekeeping missions.

Insurgents in Afghanistan

have made extensive use

of IEDs

or Improvised Explosive Devices.

Ireland has unique experience

in countering this threat.

How has this been applied

in Afghanistan?

Firstly I think it’s a very

important niche area of expertise.

We provide training in that area,

as well as engaging in what

is necessary to neutralise IEDs.

Unfortunately and tragically,

it’s a skill that was developed

and honed in Ireland during

the difficulties in Northern Ireland

and the troubles that we had

over 30 years with subversive groups

using Improvised Explosive Devices.

Of course, it is largely

peaceful in Ireland now,

although we have a remnant

of subversives engaged in

what I regularly

describe as criminal terrorism.

This is still an issue though

on the island

because IEDs became a weapon

that some of those engaged

in organised crime are using.

They’re using it in battles that

gangs are fighting with each other.

So, we would still have

in Ireland today our defence forces

essentially in aid of our police force,

being called out

to neutralise these weapons.

In the region of ninety

such call-outs occurred during 2012.

NATO has experienced an image

problem in some neutral countries.

How was that played out in Ireland?

I think the Irish public very

substantially support our troops

in engaging in peace missions.

The NATO PfP arrangement

that we’re party to,

hasn’t given rise

to any difficulty in Ireland.

It would be accurate to say

that the vast majority of the public

don’t tune in to these things.

There’s always in Ireland

a very small group of people

who view these things

with an ideological perspective,

who you simply mention

NATO to and they get overexcited,

but as you know, we had

the Secretary-General of NATO

in Ireland for our defence informal.

It was very valuable

that he was able to come

to this informal meeting

of EU Defence ministers

and address issues

of mutual concern.

And it is relevant when 21 of

the EU states are members of NATO.

We’ve heard today

that a change in mind-set is needed

from a national perspective

to a more international perspective.

Do you feel the political will

is there to do that?

I think the strange benefit

of the current financial difficulties

where all EU countries are looking

as to how they can reduce

expenditure, control expenditure,

where it’s understood across

the defence areas in the ministries

that there is unlikely to be

additional funding over the next years

and there could be further cutbacks.

That’s creating a beneficial pressure

to cooperate to a greater degree.

And I think we can do

things a lot more efficiently,

use resources more wisely

by engaging in greater cooperation

than we have done to-date

and indeed by focusing on

what are the common interests

of the member states in Europe.

quotes
Queen Elizabeth II
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