Video: Derry bomb highlighted the need for greater European military co-operation, says T.D.

Derry bomb.
Derry bomb.

The 'IRA' bomb blast in Derry last month provided a 'stark reminder' of why Ireland should continue to support cross-European Union military co-operation, according to one T.D.

Labour TD Brendan Ryan said the explosion of the bomb outside the courthouse in Derry had demonstrated why Ireland should be investing in its military capabilities.

"Increasing the skill set of our military forces in the search and detection of improvised explosive devices is a much-needed skill. We got a stark reminder of this need a few weeks ago in Derry when a car bomb was detonated within the city walls," he said.

"Most of us in this Chamber have memories long enough to a time when bombs and bomb threats were a part of our life. What happened in Derry reminded us that a return to such times could happen if we lose sight of what is important and weaken our commitment to peace.

"It is our job as politicians to strengthen peace, to build it, to nurture it and to protect it, not just on our island but throughout Europe and the world. It is the job of our Defence Forces to be prepared to act to protect us if we fail," he added.

Deputy Ryan was speaking in support of Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Paul Kehoe's, Dáil Éireann, bid to approve Irish participation in a European Defence Agency (EDA) project in relation to 'Military Search Capability Building'.

The Minister explained that Ireland has participated in several EDA projects since its formation in 2004.

This has included projects related to "maritime surveillance and networking, a force protection project that involved measures to protect military forces engaged in operational activities, a programme relating to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection, projects focused on counter-improvised explosives devices manual neutralisation techniques, and a project on co-operation on cyber-ranges in the EU".

The new project, he explained, would enhance the Defence Forces' search capabilities, which have been recently deployed against paramilitary groups and during the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland last summer.

"A recent example of this was the deployment of military search teams to search buildings and open areas involved in the Papal visit last summer. There have also been a number of searches for the bodies of missing persons and more conventional operations against paramilitary groups and criminal organisations," he said.

Critics claim Ireland's continued participation in EDA projects and its decision to pursue greater military integration by joining the European Union's Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) bloc in late 2017 are paving the way for a 'European super army'.

But Deputy Ryan rejected this: "Across the water, the politicians are failing and the UK seems to be careering towards political insecurity.

"What will that do for overall security in Ireland and Europe? I believe that straw man arguments about a European super army are not relevant here.

"The Labour Party is implacably against such a prospect but is not against training our Defence Forces to be as professional as possible and to ensure they can act to protect our safety."

The Minister also denied there was any intention of creating a super army.

"Day in, day out, whether in this House, in committee or in a general debate about defence matters, I am accused of leading the way to a European army.

"To all the Deputies who have questioned my stance on this I say I do not believe there will ever be a European army. I am not changing our defence policy on neutrality. If that policy ever is changed, whoever will be standing in this position, it will not be me," he remarked.