Members of the Irish Navy arrive to form a Guard of Honour. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER


Ireland ill-equipped to deal with any Russian naval threat


The Irish Prime Minister, or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has said his country must “do more” to defend its territorial waters from potential Russian threats.

That is despite of the fact that the nation lacks a significant naval force.

The comments come as many countries with coastal waters in the European Union are increasingly nervous over their seaways, fearing that covert conflict might spill over from Russia’s war with Ukraine.

While countries such as Norway are ramping up efforts to defend their gas pipelines, Ireland seems to be sitting on its heels somewhat.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Varadkar made vague remarks about “working with … partners” and making undersea assets “harder to sabotage”, although he appeared to offer little explanation as to how his government might do that.

Following the sabotage of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline in the Baltic Sea, EU Member States are concerned about the safety of the bloc’s underwater infrastructure.

In June, Kremlin heavyweight and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev advocated for Russia to destroy Europe’s undersea communication cables.

Alarm bells rang in Ireland as a significant share of those cables run through the country’s territorial waters. These cables give Europe most of its telephone and internet connections with the Americas and elsewhere.

Yet Ireland may not be up to the task of defending these vital assets as it only spends a fraction of a per cent on its defence forces.

Last year it was reported that the Irish Navy was made up of a little over 800 servicemen, more than 200 short of the 1,094 minimum required for it to function properly. Members of the Irish security forces have said several of its Navy’s six fighting ships have to remain in dry dock as there are not enough sailors to man them.

Speaking to Irish media, the head of the Irish Defence Forces Lieutenant General Seán Clancy admitted that the nation’s military and navy were undergoing a challenging time and were struggling with recruitment.

In Spring, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Micheál Martin – Varadkar’s ally in the coalition government – said the Irish navy would “never be in a position … to engage in submarine warfare”.

The comments led some to accuse Varadkar of relying on neighbouring countries to take up the slack regarding Irish defence.

Whereas Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made NATO popular in EU countries such as Sweden and the Finland, the alliance enjoys less support in Ireland.