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Report expected to call for new Cork Army Ranger Wing base to counter maritime terror threat

The Army Ranger Wing have a group within their unit with specialist maritime training such as combat diving.

Image: KFB

A RECOMMENDATION IS to be made for a permanent base for a small special forces detachment from the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) to be based in Cork to work in tandem with the Naval Service.

Sources have said that the move is expected to be included in the upcoming Commission on the Defence Forces report and will see a major step forward for the unit’s maritime anti-terror capabilities. 

It will the first time that an element of the ARW, or The Wing as it is known in the Defence Forces, will be based on a permanent footing outside of their Curragh, Co Kildare base.

“There is a group within The Wing which has received specialist training in maritime operations including combat diving training with the Naval Service – this has been going on for decades at this stage,” a security source said. 

“During the discussion in the Commission there was a strong focus established for the Rangers to be more involved in marine activities – they have the skills and it would be best to use those skills in a naval context. 

“Members of the Commission, especially those with a background in these activities, have identified that there is a gap in our naval coverage. 

“This will be a permanent base in Cork and the establishment of a larger, dedicated, maritime counter terror unit. There will be a greater focus on maritime operations for the Army Ranger Wing,” the source has said. 

The ARW has conducted an annual exercise in recent years in the Irish Sea using a Stena Line ferry to perfect their tactics for boardings of ships. There has also been exercises on the now decommissioned oil rigs off the Cork coast as well as so-called beach insertions in various coastal areas.

Army Ranger Wing Assualt Team secure the vessel Army Ranger Wing operators onboard a ferry during an anti-terror exercise. Source: Irish Defence Forces

Last year the ARW carried out an international assessment over several nights in Cork Harbour launching simulated raids on a military instillation which utilised new Pilatus Air Corps aircraft and various naval vehicles. 

Sources have said that lessons learned during these operations and an assessment of security threats has established a key need for a closer relationship between the Rangers and the navy. 

“The new maritime unit would work very closely with the Navy, and Naval diving unit, in particular and be Ireland’s response to terrorism at sea,” the source added. 

It’s usually the case that little is announced publicly about their operations but recently they hit the headlines with deployments to Mali and also the Kabul airlift rescue mission. 

It is also understood that recommendations are to be made for a greater definition of the work of the relationship between the Garda’s Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and the ARW.

“It will be recommended that there will be greater clarity and planning around how the ERU will work with the ARW on land if required.

“There’ll be also a recommendation that the ARW and ERU undertake more joint training including exchanges between the two units,” the source explained. 

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Security sources have told The Journal that a number of former ARW members have left the Defence Forces to join An Garda Síochána and have entered the ERU directly.

“This is not a new departure for ARW members but a regular route for the highly trained soldiers to utilise their skills on the busier operational footing of the ERU.

“Pay is better, conditions also – which is a deciding factor for a lot of these operators,” a source explained.

Sources have also said that there will be a recommendation for extra helicopters for the Air Corps to grow the reach of their successful Air Ambulance service based in Athlone. 

On Friday The Journal revealed that a key industrial relations recommendation will be that representative bodies should be permitted to join the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. 

Following repeated reports and commentary from former members of the Defence Forces the Government decided to set up the independent commission. Its terms of reference have enabled it to examine pay, conditions and resourcing across the Defence Forces.   

The Commission on the Defence Forces was to examine the nature of the work of the Defence Forces and make recommendations for the future. It is due for publication next week.

A number of international experts, former Defence Forces members as well as senior civil servants were involved in the process which included visiting military bases. 

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