Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Defence Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD has given a cautious welcome to the inclusion of a series of Fianna Fáil policies in the recently published White Paper on Defence. He also expressed concern over the failure to commit to the re-establishment of a three brigade structure for the Army.

Deputy Ó Fearghaíl said that the document appears to build on the previous White Paper on Defence, published in 2000 by Fianna Fáil, which was the first such paper in the history of the state.

“Fianna Fáil published a detailed policy document last July with the key aim of strengthening the Defence Forces. Our document, entitled ‘A Force for Good: A Credible Defence Policy’, sets out a clear vision for the future development of the Defence Forces over the next decade. I welcome the fact that many of the suggestions made by Fianna Fáil have been incorporated into this White Paper” said Deputy Ó Fearghaíl.

“In particular I welcome the inclusion of a commitment to develop an Institute for Peace Support and Leadership. This is something that Fianna Fáil has been calling for in light of the expertise gained by Irish Defence Forces personnel in the area of peacekeeping and conflict resolution following deployment overseas.

“The enhancement of our Cyber Defence capabilities is also a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done by the Government to safeguard our communications network and the multinational investment which relies on having a secure and reliable communications system. When I raised this matter in the Dáil with Minister Coveney last March he shot down suggestions that the Defence Forces would play a leading role in this area, and I welcome his U-turn on this.

“The commitment to increase the number of women in the force is long-overdue, but it is disappointing that the Minister is seemingly unwilling to raise the manpower of the Defence Forces to the much needed 10,500 mark. The White Paper earmarks new roles for the Defence Forces in the year ahead, but the Minister must make sure that the Army, Air Corps and Navy have the necessary resources and manpower to fulfil these roles.

“One of the biggest disappointments in the White Paper is the failure to re-establish a three brigade structure. Such a structure is an essential requirement in order to ensure the Defence Forces remains an effective organisation capable of providing the necessary level of vigilance in border regions. At a time of deteriorating international security it is of importance that we remain committed to having a reliable and effective Defence Force capable of protecting Irish interests.

“Fianna Fáil will be taking time to study the White Paper on Defence and a more detailed appraisal of its contents will be given in the coming weeks” said Deputy Ó Fearghaíl.