Ireland needs a full-time Minister for Defence to help protect Ireland as war wages in Ukraine, according to Kildare TD Cathal Berry.
The last senior Minister for Defence was Willie O’Dea who left office in 2010 and Minister Simon Coveney currently shares the portfolio alongside his role as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Ex Army Ranger Wing soldier Mr Berry said that the war in Ukraine and Brexit have made the security and defence of Ireland more important than ever.
He added that Ireland also needs a military-grade radar system to defend Irish airspace as well as more military planes, helicopters, armoured vehicles and new navy ships.
The South Kildare TD said: “Willie O’Dea was Ireland’s last full-time Minister for Defence and the Cabinet position was since downgraded to a part-time role.
“To this day Ireland and tiny Malta remain the only two of 27 European Union countries without a dedicated defence minister."
Earlier this month, the government agreed in a landmark move to increase Defence Forces spending to €1.5 billion by 2028 — the largest in the history of the state and designed to help transition the Army into a modern military force.
The funding was prompted the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces published in February which claimed the Army was not prepared to meaningfully defend the country against attack.
Referring to Ireland's neutral status in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr Berry also added: “We are at a point where we have the largest land war in Europe in nearly 80 years.
“This conflict’s trajectory and outcome have yet to be decided as does the extent to which Ireland might become involved or affected.”
Mr Berry made his hard-hitting comments in the current edition of SIGNAL magazine — the official subscription-only publication of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO).
Calling for a primary radar system and coastal sensors to protect Irish territory, Mr Berry also said: "Transport aircraft capable of extracting our soldiers or citizens from dangerous situations
overseas are also badly needed. As are more helicopters, armoured vehicles and replacement naval vessels."
Mr Berry said that it was ironic that the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces was published almost 100 years to the date in 1922 when valuable military infrastructure was handed over by the British in good order to the new Irish state.
But he added: “Yet our contemporary Defence Forces is understaffed, underpaid, inadequately equipped and working in poorly maintained buildings.”
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