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gerard craughwell

Irish senator is suing the Government about claim of 'RAF overflight interception' deal

The senator is seeking for the court to direct the State to admit that there is a secret deal and that this agreement permits RAF jet fighters to patrol over Irish airspace.

SENATOR GERARD CRAUGHWELL is suing the Government in an effort to compel them to state whether they have a deal with the British Government to intercept rogue aircraft over Ireland.

Craughwell has issued High Court proceedings against the Government of Ireland and the Attorney General.

The senator is seeking for the court to direct the State to admit that there is “a secret deal” and that this agreement permits RAF jet fighters to patrol over Irish airspace. 

Earlier this year the Commission on the Defence Forces set out a series of recommendations around the Irish Air Corps. In the most ambitious set of suggestions it said that Ireland would get 12 fighter jets to police Irish airspace. 

Craughwell had said in speeches previously that Ireland does not have an indigenous jet fighter capability. 

Speaking to The Journal Craughwell said that this agreement is repugnant to the Irish constitution.

“I have been questioning the agreement made after 9/11 between Ireland and the UK which provides for the RAF to interdict, intercept and escort aircraft from Irish Air Space.

“I believe that this agreement is unconstitutional. To date the answers I have been given have been evasive and possibly misleading.

“The most recent answer from Minister Coveney at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs has left me with no alternative but to have this matter brought before the courts,” he said. 

It has been claimed by the Senator and other defence sources that a memorandum was signed with the British to provide a jet fighter response to incoming suspicious aircraft. 

Craughwell said that he first got wind of the agreement in 2017 and had asked questions of the Government as to the nature of the deal. 

“I was told nothing to see here. Move along. So I asked several more times about this, because the more I was told there was nothing to see, the more I was being told there is an agreement, that the agreement was signed between the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Defence, and the Irish Aviation Authority.

“And that became a huge concern for me, because none of those agencies includes a minister with the power to make such an agreement, as far as I am aware.

“I looked at the constitutionality of it. And it’s clearly set out in the Constitution who can can and who can’t establish a defence of the nation,” he said. 

This refers to a number of sections of the constitution including Article Five with regard to the sovereignty of the Irish State and Article 29.5.1 which states that any international agreement must come before the Dáil for ratification. 

 In the Oireachtas committee hearing as referenced by Craughwell Simon Coveney the Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs denied that there was an agreement. 

“We do not have overflight arrangements with the RAF, to be clear,” Coveney said. 

Craughwell said the reason for the secrecy was to prevent a public outcry that the Irish State was using British aircraft to keep Ireland secure. 

“When this agreement was entered into they were depending on a foreign country, a third country outside Europe, member of NATO to defend our airspace.

“I think that would have caused outrage amongst society that we actually turn to the old fall are dependent on them to debate and defend our skies. So I think that the secrecy behind this is to hide our blushes of your own failure to invest in our own defence.

“This is about the State being honest as to our State’s defence ability, if you aren’t then this is just another one of the things that needs to be discussed nationally,” he added.

The Department of Defence declined to comment when contacted by The Journal. 

With additional reporting from Diarmuid Pepper