Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Defence
European Defence Agency
35. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on whether Ireland’s proposed role in a European Defence Agency Project may lead to SOFA agreements and foreign troops being stationed here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9425/19]
Ireland has been a participating member State in the European Defence Agency (EDA) since it was established in 2004. Since then, Ireland has participated in a range of EDA projects and programmes. These projects have included Maritime Surveillance, Force Protection, Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protection, Cyber and Counter-Improvised Explosives Devices Manual Neutralisation techniques.
The EDA is focused on assisting Member States in improving defence capabilities through European cooperation. The primary reason for Ireland's participation is to support the development of Defence Forces capabilities for peacekeeping and international crisis management operations. Ireland's participation in EDA projects to date, and our planned participation in the Specialist Engineer Search project, approved last week by Dáil Éireann, do not involve SOFA agreements or the stationing of foreign troops within the State. In fact, there is no connection between the role of the SOFAs, which are essentially focussed on operational deployment of military forces and EDA projects which are focussed on capability development.
The Deputy will recall that Dáil Éireann recently approved Ireland's ratification of the Partnership for Peace and the European Union SOFAs. As I explained in the course of the debate, Bunreacht na hÉireann does not allow for foreign militaries to be based in Ireland due to the provisions of Article 15.6.2 of the Constitution. This fact is not changed by Ireland's participation in projects under the EDA. In addition, Ireland's agreement of both SOFAs is subject to respective Reservations as outlined during the debates. These Reservations which are based on our Constitutional provisions will be associated with Ireland's instrument of ratification in respect of each of the SOFAs. The Reservations ensure that the SOFAs will only extend to members of the PDF deploying overseas where these SOFAs apply. They will not apply within the Irish State.