Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should be a ‘wake-up call’ for Ireland
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said Ireland will need to increase its military spending in the future, adding that it would be unwise to assume the country is safe from attack simply because it is militarily neutral.
“In fact, this attack on Ukraine should be a wake-up call for all of us to be ready to defend our system, because a system worth building is worth defending,” he said. Varadkar in the Dáil during questions to the leaders yesterday, March 3.
“If the European Union was worth building, it is worth defending. If our independence was worth securing, it is also worth defending.”
Varadkar continued: “I think we need to increase defense spending. We need to pay our military personnel more. We need better equipment. We need to be able to protect our own seas. We need a radar above our own airspace.
“The assumption we made for 70 years was that no one would attack us because we are a militarily neutral country. Ukraine was militarily neutral. It was not part of any military alliance. It was attacked because she was politically part of the West, or at least wanted to be.
“We assume that, even if we are attacked, the British and Americans will come to save us anyway. I’m not sure that’s the kind of assumption a sovereign country like ours should make.”
Video of Varadkar’s comments for people to see for themselves… pic.twitter.com/OqboIeWkJR
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) March 3, 2022
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland’s policy of neutrality “may change at any time”.
The Taoiseach said it would be “naive” not to think about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying Ireland must “think about deeper involvement in European defence”.
Martin said ideals such as self-determination, sovereignty, territorial integrity, freedom of association, freedom of the media, free trade and basic rights were under attack by “authoritarian regimes like Russia” .
“I think this naked assault really exposed the vulnerability at the heart of the European Union and its project because people don’t play by the same rules at all,” Martin said.
Ireland has contributed to the EU’s €500 million support package for Ukraine, providing non-lethal military equipment while “constructively refraining” from supplying lethal equipment.
Ireland is also expected to strengthen its naval fleet by purchasing two warships from New Zealand.
The Irish Examiner reports that the Irish government has struck a deal with the New Zealand government to buy two short-range warships which were decommissioned because they failed to meet the long-range patrol requirements of the New Zealand Navy.
The ‘Lake class’ vessels are smaller than the P60 class vessels that the Irish Navy currently uses to patrol the Atlantic Ocean.
The P60s also require a crew of 45, while the smaller Lake-class vessels only require a crew of 25.
The vessels will likely be based off the east coast and will be used primarily for fishing patrols in the Irish Sea.
The Irish Naval Service is also looking to recruit additional personnel to make up for severe personnel shortages.
The naval service is currently down 200 employees from its minimum complement of 1,094, forcing the navy to ground two ships, the flagship LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla in June 2019.