Written answers

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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110. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the policy of his Department in relation to the European Union policy to grow the armaments industry across the European Union in view of Ireland's traditional view of this industry and the destruction, suffering and poverty it causes worldwide and particularly in poorer countries; the reason that he spoke at and attended an online event recently that had as its aims networking in relation to promoting the new European Union funding and technology supports for the defence and security research, innovation, development and manufacturing ecosystem in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59387/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The European Union's common security and defence policy (CSDP) is the policy which sets out the EU’s framework in the field of defence and crisis management, including defence cooperation and coordination between Member States in support of international peace and security.  The EU proposes to be a provider of security for its citizens, to protect values and interests and contribute to international peace and security.

Ireland is a strong proponent of the important role the EU can play in support of international peace and security within the framework of the UN.  To that end, Ireland, through our central engagement in all CSDP processes, seeks to ensure our influence in the development of EU policy and to influence its evolution.

Emerging from the 2016 EU Global strategy, a number of CSDP initiatives have evolved rapidly over the past few years. These initiatives include Permanent Structured Cooperation – PESCO, the Coordinated Annual Review of Defence (CARD), the establishment of the European Defence Fund (EDF) and the European Peace Facility (EPF).

Crisis management missions and operations are the most visible and tangible expression of the CSDP. Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed to three UN-mandated EU military missions and operations.  As an active participant in CSDP missions and operations, it is important that we uphold Ireland’s key values and objectives regarding the direction of travel and the role of CSDP Missions and Operations (civilian and military) and our participation in these CSDP missions complements our long-standing tradition of participating in UN peacekeeping operations. With more complex mandates, and often with fewer resources, missions are expected to perform multiple, simultaneous, interdependent tasks in harsh and remote operating environments. The peacekeeping partnership between the UN Secretariat and Member States demands focused and coordinated efforts to provide adequate support to our peacekeepers in the field and generate the appropriate resources for the efficient delivery of UN mandates. 

The event to which the Deputy refers took place as a webinar on Thursday last. Its aim was to provide information to Irish industry and research institutions on the opportunities for EU funding for research and development projects and engagement in cross-border European programmes and projects in the security and defence domain. The event was very well attended by Irish companies and research institutes, including the higher education sector.

Contributors to the seminar  included the European Commission (Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space) and the European Defence Agency. The event also involved a number of European enterprises sharing their experience of the wide-ranging opportunities that there are for Irish research institutions and industrial entities in the security and defence domain, particularly for exploitation of dual use technologies.  Associations representing Defence and Security research and enterprise also participated in the event.

The funding opportunities outlined at the seminar are about a wide range of technology, research and development and, in particular, dual use technologies.  During negotiations for the EDF regulations and the first two work programmes for 2021 and 2022 as well as for the forerunner programmes for the EDF, my officials in the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs, with support from across government, joined with colleagues from other smaller member states and those without traditional defence industries to maximise the possibilities for engagement by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to minimise direct awards to the traditional defence industry, to maximise transparency and open up supply.

The seminar  follows on from the publication last year by my Department and the Defence Forces of a Feasibility Study which, identified the value of having a research technology and innovation capability within the Defence Organisation.  The feasibility study identifies that this RTI capability should  focus on technologies at lower technology readiness levels (TRL) that have broad potential utilisation in both the civil and security and defence spheres and on leveraging innovations from the civilian sector in a manner that offers potential benefits for our Defence forces as well as for industry and academia.

The recent establishment of the RTI Unit in Defence has the potential to set a new strategic direction for Defence innovation and collaboration, to drive internal innovation in the Defence Organisation and to contribute to the development of a security and defence dual-use innovation eco-system.   The Defence RTI Unit will also support Irish enterprise and research bodies in accessing EU funding streams, including through the European Defence Fund, the EDA and their engagement with European networks and SMEs across the EU.


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