Department of Defence encourages Irish companies to profit from conflict

The controversial seminar will take place on Thursday.

A  seminar linking Irish companies to EU defence and security funding “spells the end of Irish neutrality”, says MEP Clare Daly.

This Thursday the Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, will formally open a High Level Seminar on the new EU funding and technology supports for defence and security research, innovation, development, and manufacturing ecosystem in Ireland.

According to promotional material, the seminar will provide “significant” networking opportunities with senior officials from the EU Commission, the European Defence Agency, Enterprise Ireland and the European defence industry, who will present on the European Defence Fund, Defence Tech Engagement, and Horizon Europe opportunities over the next EU budgetary cycle (2021-2027).

“This is certainly a creeping expansion of Ireland’s involvement with the defence industry,” said Daly. “The key thing to understand about defence industry integration is that it is as much an erosion of Irish neutrality as participating in an overseas conflict. 

“The explicit strategy in EU politics is to borrow from the playbook of military superpowers and to build up and integrate a European defence industrial base –  a network of European-based arms companies that both enable warfare and profit from it. This is the function of the European Defence Fund and its predecessor programmes: a multi-billion euro slush fund of public money for the arms industry. The aim is to make conflict a profitable enterprise for European industry and to forge a set of business interests that will drive EU militaries together and support an ‘assertive’ EU foreign policy.”

The European Defence Fund has a nearly €8 billion budget for the period 2021-2027, with €2.7 billion dedicated to funding collaborative defence research over the period and €5.3 billion to funding collaborative capability development projects. The Minister for Defence has avoided answering parliamentary questions on the costs to Ireland of participation.

“Participating in European war capitalism, even at the fringes, spells the end of Irish neutrality, as surely as deploying our Defence Forces outside of a UN mandate would.”

It is believed that involvement in the European Defence Fund marks a new expansion in the role of Enterprise Ireland. Under the Science and Technology Act 1987, Enterprise Ireland cannot “engage in or promote any activity of a primarily military relevance without the prior approval of Government.” In 2011 the Dáil agreed to Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Defence participating in some European Defence Agency projects, with the Minister at the time saying that the “primary reason for Ireland’s participation in the EDA is to support the ongoing development of Defence Forces capabilities for international peace support missions.” The 2015 White Paper on Defence set out that Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Defence would seek to support Irish-based enterprises in their engagement with the EDA and in accessing EDA and Horizon 2020 programmes.

The MEP continued: “It is entirely inappropriate but unsurprising that a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael government would be encouraging Irish companies to get involved in this way. 

“Successive Irish governments have not been honest with the Irish public about their policy on European defence integration over the last decade. Ministers have downplayed the significance of the changes underway in the European Union and have sought to deny that Irish membership of emerging European defence structures would compromise neutrality. It is a deeply unserious and duplicitous posture, which rests on a corresponding failure of the Irish establishment press to properly inform the public about the direction of EU policy.

“There is no secret – all of this is openly discussed in Europe and European leaders regularly boast about it, but it is omitted from Irish mainstream reportage. If Irish citizens were being properly informed, they would understand that it is impossible for Irish neutrality not to be affected, given the depth of feeling behind this in the larger European countries and the scale and momentum of what is taking place.

“Our membership of these structures ensures that we are being carried along. It has already compromised the independence of Irish foreign policy. Irish ministers know this full well, and their remarks to the Dáil should be seen in that light.”