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Controversy as Irish naval ship attends world's largest arms fair in London

The LÉ Samuel Beckett sailed from Cork to be at the event.

Festival of Resistance against DSEI Arms Fair, London, UK A protester blocks lorries entering the DSEI arms fair. Source: Peter Marshall/PA Images

THE DEPARTMENT OF Defence has defended a decision to send Irish naval ship the LÉ Samuel Beckett to the world’s largest arms fair in London.

The Irish Anti-War Movement has described the decision as “outrageous” given Ireland’s neutrality and said the vessel will in effect be used to “help sell lucrative military equipment”.

The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) is taking place at London’s ExCel and features an estimated 1,600 exhibitors from 54 countries, showcasing weapons and other military equipment.

Sky News reports that among the distributors at the exhibition will be arms manufacturers who sell drones, helicopters and surveillance equipment.

No arms sales actually take place on the floor but the exhibition, which is held every two years, serves as an opportunity for nations to evaluate military hardware.

The arms fair regularly attracts large protests due to the weapons on display and 102 people were arrested by police outside the venue yesterday.

PastedImage-27122 Source: Twitter/MPSonthewater

The Irish Anti-War Movement has criticised the decision to take the LÉ Samuel Beckett from its base in Haulbowline, Co Cork to journey to the exhibition.

“The LE Samuel Beckett will not be available to protect our fisheries or provide emergency marine rescue services while in London, where its apparent duties will be to help sell lucrative military equipment for the global arms industry,” the group said in a statement.

This is outrageous given that the Irish government has declared Ireland to be a neutral state. It also represents serious misuse of Irish taxpayers funds at a time when over 8,000 people are homeless.

Samuel Beckett The LÉ Samuel Beckett is docked in London for the arms fair. Source: vesselfinder.com

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance has also criticised the vessel’s presence at the arms fair and questioned the recent controversial sale of the LÉ Aisling.

In statement issued following the controversy, the Department of Defence said the decision was taken as a means of displaying Ireland’s naval protection.

The attendance of LÉ Samuel Beckett at the exhibition is an opportunity to portray to a wide audience the considerable level of commitment and investment made in recent years towards protecting and safeguarding Irish territorial waters, by showcasing the success of the offshore patrol vessel design and build capabilities.

The department says the presence of the ship was requested by Babcock International, which built LÉ Samuel Beckett as well as sister ships LÉ James Joyce and LÉ William Butler Yeats.

29877595345_5f005abaa0_o LÉ Samuel Beckett off the Cork coast. Source: Flickr/dfamagazine

“Babcock International is currently in the middle of building a fourth sister offshore patrol vessel for the Irish Naval Service which is due for delivery in 2018,” the department added.

The statement added that “no additional advantage or benefit is being received by Defence Force personnel” for the appearance of the ship at the arms fair.

Read: Taoiseach wants Ireland to introduce a Navy hospital ship for global emergencies >

Read: Irish Navy helps rescue over 200 migrants >

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