Tánaiste Micheál Martin has questioned whether the triple lock mechanism for deploying the Defence Forces overseas remains “fit for purpose”.
Under the triple lock mechanism, any major Irish deployment abroad for peacekeeping or European Union missions requires the approval of the Government and the Dáil and the backing of a United Nations resolution.
The Tánaiste, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, was speaking on Thursday in the Dáil on the matter as statements were heard on the new consultative forum on international security policy.
The four-day forum in Dublin, Cork and Galway, will take place in June and is to be chaired by Prof Louise Richardson, the former vice chancellor of the University of Oxford.
Mr Martin said the forum needed to examine what the imposition of the UN Security Council veto meant for Ireland.
“The increasing use of the veto is limiting the council’s ability to fulfil its mandate for the maintenance of international peace and security,” he said.
“The forum needs to examine what this means for Ireland’s ability to pursue an independent foreign policy, including the implications for the triple lock.
“With the experience of recent years, can we genuinely and honestly say that the triple lock remains fit for purpose?”
The Fianna Fáil leader also said that Ireland’s policy of military neutrality must be an important part of the discussion at the forum.
“Equally, these questions must not be reduced to a simplistic binary choice, staying as we are today, or immediately seeking to join a military alliance such as Nato are not the only options,” he said.
“There is a more nuanced, informed and layered discussion to be had unpacking and examining our long standing policy of military neutrality, while at the same time, exploring the full spectrum of policy options that are available to us as a sovereign state and a committed member of the European Union.”
Mr Martin also said Ireland was a highly globalised country and could no longer rely on its geographic isolation for “our security, nor believe that we can isolate ourselves from world events”.
He said the Government was not prejudging the outcome of any of the discussions at the forum and that there was “no hidden agenda at play”.
Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said his party was disappointed the forum was “less about public discussion than it is about an attempt to reshape public opinion” and there was no role for Opposition in the discussion.
“The proposed format of the consultative forum minimises the input of the public and Opposition parties,” he said.
“Those contributing will be appointed by Government, and their contributions will lead to a report authored solely by the forums chair, also appointed by Government.”
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said a more appropriate forum would have been a Citizens’ Assembly. Mr Carthy said in any public discussion Sinn Féin would vociferously advocate for neutrality.
He said reports of a secret deal with the British Government to have the RAF secure the State’s airspace “again starkly point to an ongoing policy of signing up to international military missions while ignoring the incapacity to address our own domestic defence needs”.
As the Government scales up in investment in the Defence Forces, Mr Martin has said expects the Irish Naval Service’s two new Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPVs) to begin work in the Irish Sea early next year after their arrival in Cork from New Zealand at the weekend.
The two ships, Rotoiti and Pukaki which were bought from the New Zealand navy at a cost of €26 million, arrived in Cork on Sunday following a 10,000 nautical mile voyage on board the transport vessel, Happy Dynamic and have been offloaded and towed into the Naval Base at Haulbowline.
Speaking earlier this week at Haulbowline, Mr Martin pointed out that the latest addition to the Naval Service’s fleet required fewer crew than the ships that they were replacing which would mean they could be at sea on a more consistent basis given staff issues in the service.
“The Government has acknowledged there are ongoing challenges in the Naval Service and these are being addressed as part of a planned approach to regeneration of the Naval Service. This has seen the withdrawal of three ships from service – LÉ Orla, LÉ Ciara and LÉ Eithne and their replacement on a phased basis.”
The two new IPVs have a crewing requirement of just 20 each as opposed to a crewing requirement of 39 for the larger LE Orla and LE Ciara which they are replacing, and Mr Martin explained that this will enable the Naval Service to operate more regular patrols throughout Irish waters.
The two ships, named after two lakes in New Zealand, were built between 2005 and 2008 and served as New Zealand navy Fishery Inshore Patrol Vessels to patrol within 24 nautical miles of the shore but they were deemed surplus to requirements and were withdrawn from service in 2019.