Taoiseach should restore the Cabinet Committee on National Security he abolished in 2020
In the Dáil today, Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly raised with the Taoiseach his decision to abolish the previous Cabinet Committee on National Security and asked when the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces would be published.
Deputy Kelly said:
“The current Taoiseach decided not to continue the Cabinet Committee on National Security when he took office in summer 2020. With building tensions in Eastern Europe, concerns about energy security, the impact of the pandemic and the recent devastating cyber-attack on the HSE, it is clear that such a forum is needed to assess the threats facing our country.
“The events of the last week when a fleet of Russian ships planned naval exercises in the exclusive economic zone of Irish waters clearly showed weaknesses in our national security. Twice last week the Taoiseach failed to answer direct questions from me if Irish naval ships would be present to accompany Irish fishing boats. Nor would he confirm how many ships were capable of going to sea due to ongoing crew shortages.
“For all intents and purposes, we are currently unable to properly secure and police our national airspace and territorial waters. The draft Defence Forces Commission report is due soon but as revealed in the Sunday Independent at the weekend its understood to contain an admission that the Army isn’t “equipped, postured or realistically prepared to conduct a meaningful defence of the State against a full spectrum force for any sustained period”.
“There are long standing concerns about staffing but also the capital investment needed to ensure we can adequately patrol and monitor our territory. From radar to airlift capacity there are serious weaknesses and shortcomings. The cyber-attack on the HSE also showed our digital weaknesses which crippled our health service for weeks in the middle of the pandemic.
“As far back as September 2020 I raised with the Taoiseach the lack of a dedicated Cabinet Committee on Defence and security. Issues of core pay, allowances, recruitment and retention are major issues of concern to the readiness of our Defence Forces that the Labour Party has consistently called for action on.
“There is a National Security Committee made up of top officials from various Departments but its membership does not include the relevant Ministers from Justice, Defence, Foreign Affairs, the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste. Recent events show the need for political leadership from the Taoiseach now.”