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Ireland to join European centre for countering hybrid threats such as cyber and disinformation

The centre allows member states to develop responses to the activities of adversaries below the threshold of war.

IRELAND IS SET to send delegates to a European centre to develop responses to so-called hybrid threats, following cabinet approval.

Hybrid threats are defined as military and non-military as well as covert and overt means which include active spreading of disinformation, cyber attacks, and economic pressure designed by an aggressive opposing state to undermine a country.

Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney brought a proposal to cabinet this week that Ireland become a Participating State in the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats.

Sources have said that this would enable Ireland to interact with the other members of the body who would support Ireland’s ability to detect, protect and deal with the harmful effects of hybrid threats.

There has been much discussion at Government and national security level, following the cyber attack on the HSE, of the need for a more coordinated and dynamic response to hybrid threats.  

The Centre, located in Helsinki, Finland was established in 2017 by nine countries, all of which were members of either the EU or NATO. Membership is open to states which are members of at least one of the organisations.

Most Participating States offer seconded staff, either civilian or military, to the Centre – sources said that it is not known if the Irish delegates will be drawn from the civil or military sector.

Sources have said that hybrid threat actors, who can be state or non-state, exploit the vulnerabilities of states by using a range of coordinated measures, including malicious cyber activity, disinformation campaigns, the manipulation of issues such as migration and energy security, and the misuse of social media to control political narratives and radicalise and recruit proxy actors.

There are currently 31 Participating States in the Centre. All EU Member States, other than Ireland and Bulgaria are already participating states. Malta has joined in recent weeks.

The US, Canada and Norway are also members – subject to Government approval, it is expected that Ireland’s application would be considered by the Centre’s steering committee in November.

With additional reporting from Tadgh McNally. 

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