Transformation | 

Defence Forces head wants military spending increased by as much as €500m per year

'We have an opportunity here I think, today, and in the next number of months, and perhaps the coming years to provide real change in the Defence Forces'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin visiting Camp Shamrock in South Lebanon today

Hugh O'Connell

The head of the Defence Forces has called for military spending to be increased by as much as €500m per year as there has been “no real change” over the last decade.

Lieutenant General Seán Clancy said the Government's plans to implement the recommendations of the Commission on the Defence Forces present an opportunity for reform that would make the army fit for purpose.

Speaking to reporters at UN Post 2-45, also known as Camp Shamrock, in south Lebanon, he said: “Transformation is a buzzword that's used probably too often, but over the last decade, we've seen it used a lot in relation to the Defence Forces, but there has been no real change.

“We have an opportunity here I think, today, and in the next number of months, and perhaps the coming years to provide real change in the Defence Forces - to modernise the Defence Forces, to bring it about into a fit for purpose organisation that will be able to participate in in those more high-profile, high-energy [missions] where force protection is going to be key.”

Lt Gen Clancy said this would include domestic security as well where “critical infrastructure [which] needs to be protected”.

He continued: “We as an institution of the State have to be able to provide that and if the Government asks us to do that and resources us to do that, I'm confident that we will have the opportunity and the skills to deliver that.”

The Commission report, published earlier this year, set out three options for reform of the Defence Forces after concluding that there were “striking gaps” in the State’s capacity to police its air and maritime areas of responsibility and protect national security.

Speaking earlier at Camp Shamrock, Taoiseach Micheál Martin ruled out the report’s first option, which would effectively mean standing still. He said that as a country “we simply have to increase our defence spending”.

He said the war in Ukraine had exposed vulnerabilities on the European continent. “Without question, we do need to increase resources towards our Defence Forces in all aspects of defence forces - air, sea and land forces,” he said.

Lt Gen Clancy welcomed the Taoiseach ruling out option one.

He said that the report’s second option, which would involve increasing defence spending by 50pc or €500m, was the “first step on that road”.

Also speaking at the Irish base in south Lebanon, Defence Minister Simon Coveney said he would bring a memo to Government next month that would be a “step change in investment” in the Defence Forces.

“This is going to cost but it is in my view absolutely justified and required now, not only the evidence base that’s provided by the commission report but also the context internationally of a war at the heart of the continent of Europe.

“No country in the European Union can take peace for granted, every country in Europe is looking at peace and security issues and Ireland should be no different.”

Mr Coveney said he did not envisage that Irish missions in Lebanon would be scaled back anytime soon, noting that other missions like the UN one in Mali is due to end in September. “We will probably see reductions in certain missions in other parts of the world,” he said.

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