Thursday, 18 November 2021
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
133. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the actual measures or protocols in place to protect undersea fibre optic cables that run under Irish waters from interference or tampering by foreign or hostile agents; if a risk assessment of the likelihood of such an incident has been carried out by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56548/21]
The Naval Service is the State’s principal seagoing agency maintaining a constant presence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout Ireland’s enormous and rich maritime jurisdiction, upholding Ireland’s sovereign rights.
It is the maritime component of the Defence Forces and is tasked with a variety of roles in support of a broad range of departments and agencies with responsibilities in the maritime domain. For example, An Garda Síochána, Revenue, Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and various other Government Departments in line with Memoranda of Understanding and Service Level Agreements.
As part of the development of the 2015 White Paper on Defence, the Department engaged in a broad-ranging consultation process, including with all other Departments. At that time the Department of the Communications, Energy and Natural Resources outlined that resilience is built into the system to mitigate against any damage to submarine cables. High capacity and multiple routes provide resilience in the event of route failure. Business Continuity Planning is of interest to all major international corporations. Where damage has occurred to a cable in the past, the operators have shared a cable while repairs are made. Under the National Cyber Security Strategy, an updated detailed risk assessment of the vulnerability of all Critical National Infrastructure and services to cyberattack is being performed.
The Defence Forces are aware of active subsea fibre optic cables landing on the island of Ireland. While these may present strategic locations for marine counter terrorism, the locations and security of these telecommunication resources does not rest with the Defence Forces. As any threat to these installations would be considered an on-island domestic security matter, the responsibility rests with An Garda Síochána.