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Simon Coveney speaking at Cathal Brugha Barracks in May.

Coveney tells committee that new Defence Forces funding will be 'about people'

“I don’t believe that it’s possible to deliver something more ambitious,” Coveney said this evening.

DEFENCE MINISTER SIMON Coveney has said that a key aim of Defence Forces funding measures approved by Cabinet today is to reduce headhunting which causes specialists to leave.

The Fine Gael minister told the Oireachtas joint committee on foreign affairs and defence that the government will increase Defence Forces spending from €1.1 billion a year to €1.5 billion a year by 2028.

“If you lose people in specialist positions who have been headhunted, that has a cascading effect on the roles of other essential functions,” he said.

“I’m certain that the main issue here will not be about spending on new planes, new ships, new equipment, but about people.”

The increase will be inflation-adjusted to 2022 prices, a move that was welcomed by security sources.

Further details from the Commission on the Defence Forces’ findings will be launched tomorrow morning, Coveney told the committee. 

“I’m very privileged to have been in in government for quite a period of time now. You really only get about half a dozen opportunities to do something of real significance.”

“As a minister this for me, it was one of them.This is about as fundamental a decision for the Defense Forces I’ve ever seen an Irish government make,” he said.

Coveney added that the decision represented a “significant and steady increase in funding for the next six years” and that the commission’s recommendations would now be the new benchmark for future spending.

The government’s official position was that it would increase permanent members of the Defence Forces from 9,500 to 11,500 but that current numbers showed there were less than 8,500, Coveney said.

3,000 additional reserve members will also be required, meaning that a net increase of 1,000 members of the Defence Forces per year for the next six years will have to happen.

“I don’t believe that it is possible to deliver something more ambitious in terms of numbers and in terms of equipment,” he added.

The minister also answered questions on Ireland’s role on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), his meetings with the European Union Foreign Affairs Council and cooperation with other countries on defence.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has discussed the war in Ukraine 23 times this year.

Ireland is an elected member serving a two-year term alongside nine other elected members and five permanent members- the UK, Russia, the United States, China and France.

The minister said that it is “unacceptable and deeply frustrating” that Russia is continuing use its role to veto any meaningful action aimed at halting the war.

He also said that four tranches of military aid have been given to Ukraine by the EU, which amount to approximately €2 billion, with Ireland contributing €44 million in non-lethal aid such as flak jackets, first aid and food.

When asked if sanctions were succeeding as a punishment against Russia and not simply causing suffering to the civilian population, Coveney said that they were necessary to send a swift message that the war was illegal.

“The reality of that is that some of those sanctions also introduce hardship within the European Union. These are not cost-free for us either.”

“But I still think the continuation of this war also has an extraordinary cost.”

Coveney also praised the fact that Ukraine and Moldova had been given EU candidate status, and said that he would be travelling to Moldova and Ukraine next week.

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