Irish Senator Gerard Craughwell said that the agreement between the Irish and British authorities allowing this went against Ireland’s sovereignty.
The agreement permits the RAF to conduct operations over or near Ireland in the event of an aircraft requiring identification or in the event of a terrorist incident as Ireland is unable to do this itself.
According to the Irish Examiner, this lack of capability was made abundantly clear when it was confirmed that Irish Air Corps aircraft could not climb high enough or go fast enough to intercept Russian bombers which came close to Irish airspace on a couple of occasions in early 2015.
As recently as February according to local media, RAF typhoons intercepted two Russian bombers flying down the west coast of Ireland and over the Bay of Biscay. The Irish Aviation Authority said in a statement that RAF jets had intercepted the Russian aircraft as they transited “Irish controlled airspace” 256 nautical miles off the west coast of Ireland.
Senator Craughwell said that he was shocked to learn about this:
“Imagine my shock at the weekend when I discovered that an agreement had been signed between this country and the United Kingdom granting permission to the United Kingdom to scramble fighter jets in Irish airspace.
The agreement was signed by the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Irish Aviation Authority, which is not even a body responsible to the Oireachtas but a semi-State body.
The agreement was signed before either this or the last Government came to power. I can find no evidence anywhere of Oireachtas oversight of the agreement or of a ministerial signature on it.”
The Senator added:
“How are we to know that it does not also allow ships of the Royal Navy to sail in our waters? How do we know that it does not allow the British military to cross the Border and drive tanks all the way to Dublin? I do not wish to trivialise the matter, but granting permission to a foreign military power to fly its fighter jets through our airspace is a direct attack on the Constitution.
I do not know how a public servant can sit down and sign an agreement with the involvement of a semi-State body. Will somebody, please, explain how it happened?”
Why do the UK and Ireland have this agreement?
According to the Irish Examiner, “five well-placed sources in Ireland and one in Britain have pointed to the agreement being in place, with a number saying the Defence Forces was not involved in negotiating it, despite the RAF asking for its inclusion.”
Ireland lacks aircraft that can climb high enough or go fast enough to intercept Russian aircraft which came close to Irish airspace on a couple of occasions in 2015, being driven away by British jets.
It is understood that Civil servants from the Irish Department of Defence and Department of Foreign Affairs with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) entered into a bilateral agreement with British counterparts: the RAF, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Defence, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The agreement reportedly permits the British military to conduct armed operations over Ireland in the event of a terrorist-attack, real or suspected.
Ireland operates ‘The Air Corps’ who fly a fleet of fixed and rotary wing aircraft (but no jet aircraft), it provides military support to the Irish Army and Naval Service.
Their only combat capable aircraft is the Pilatus PC-9M whih can be armed with a heavy machine gun or rocket pods. Their primary airbase is Casement Aerodrome located at Baldonnel, County Dublin.