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.

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This article made me chuckle. He does raise a valid point though. How could any civil servant sign such an agreement that involves the military of another country conducting operations o er it’s airspace. Either the government is shirking it’s responsibility or Ireland is not a sovereign country at all.

Daniele Mandelli

Sovereign country?

Course not. They are part of the EU, and have a PM who says exactly what the EU want him to.


Being sovereign and in the EU aren’t mutually exclusive.


The EU encroaches more and more hence Brexit.


We are told ‘The EU encroaches more and more’, hence Brexit. Brexit was sold to working class voters (including me, though I didn’t buy it) as a way of ‘stopping all them foreigners stealing our jobs’. The architects of Brexit (Fox etc) want to turn the UK into a mini USA, just like Trump’s vision. That won’t be good for most people, including those working class who voted for it. If Trump & Putin are in favour how could anyone vote for it ? They just want to weaken Europe for their own benefit.


Globalisation relocates well paid jobs from the working classes to low wage economies. The beneficiaries are the shareholders and people wanting to buy cheaper goods. If I was an individual who was facing a choice between a stable job or unemployment and a cheap TV, I know which one I’d choose. Trump is challenging the internationalists’ status quo. By demanding balanced trade between states he is de facto standing up for production in the USA and putting a handbrake on un-mitigated globalisation. I understand it is vogue to damn Trump but are you REALLY reflecting on what he is trying… Read more »

Darren hall

”Either the government is shirking it’s responsibility or Ireland is not a sovereign country at all.” Irelands Air defence has been in the hands of the RAF for a long time, both by agreement and by the reality of Ireland not having its own air defence. Does this mean Ireland is not sovereign, no?, then it means they are shirking… IMO, no as well… Irelands Air defence has been based in the reality of, no money and a neighbour with a big stick. Why would they invest the money into something when they can get it for free?, whether that… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Tough. In war we are not doing this for Ireland’s defence. We do it for OUR and NATO’s defence, as being neutral they should not be any sort of target. In cases of terrorist attack it is even more important, possibly for them too. And heaven forbid if the new Cold War went hot and Russian bombers got as far as west of Ireland without interception, which I doubt, and then turned east over Ireland to attack the UK from the western approaches, I’d hope the RAF would ignore Irish sensitivities and shoot them down rather than wait obediently on… Read more »


‘because we are not allowed to engage further out’

The UN forces weren’t supposed to pursue NK/PLA (and USSR flown) aircraft over the Yalu – they did, of course. In the mid 70s Hawks were equipped to fire AAMs for the very scenario you mention.

Daniele Mandelli

Good. Yes 88 Hawk were wired for Sidewinders, but they needed to be paired with a Tornado F3 first to act as mother with radar to vector them in.


In reality how hard would it be for Ireland to invest in maybe 15-20 capable jets (Typhoon, grippen, f15/16) and defend their own airspace. With that number they could have an operational squadron with spares to ensure high availability. The only realistic problem would be training up pilots but I’m sure the UK and Ireland could come to some kind of agreement where we help to train up enough of the pilots.

Daniele Mandelli

Latest Hawks?


Just a squadron of gripen would do them with meteor. Would make perfect sense for the Falklands as well, can’t imagine the training and maintenance pipeline would be that expensive for a squadron or 2 and adds some redundancy to the fleet in the event of aircraft grounding


Indeed. South Africa has a GDP of about $326bn and bought 26 Gripen. The RoI has a GDP of $382bn. Admittedly those South African Gripen were all part of a very controversial arms deal that also included 4 Meko-200 derived frigates and plenty of other stuff besides and it’s debatable that it was actually appropriate for the government to enter into a deal of that size given the other issues in the country but if it could fund that huge arms purchase then the RoI, with a 17% larger GDP and far fewer citizens to look after (population less than… Read more »

Barry Larking

Why would they? Since 1922 a third of the Republic’s citizen’s have lived and worked in the U.K. 48.000 volunteered for service in the British armed services during World War Two. (The survivor’s were shunned on returning home.) Irish Independence has always depended on the U.K., particularly England. I like the Irish (hard not to) but they do come out with some nonsense at times.


Irish independence was always dependent on the UK, particularly England! When they were driven out we gained it!


Ireland has a defence budget of 0.3% of GDP, a little less than 1 billion euros. A squadron of Gripen C with 3 or 4 D for training would cost another billion, but perhaps spread over a few years. Capable after the upgrade they had of taking Meteor, like the Typhoon. They could probably do it just by increasing to 0.5% GDP, and get trained by SSAB and Sweden. So yes, they should do it, in view of Brexit. In theory Ireland could refuse to allow overflights which would make it difficult for QRA. I daresay it’s a scenario the… Read more »

John Clark

The Southern Irish have no need for air defence, They are a provance of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Europe, so perhaps the Germans could spare one of their 4 active Typhoons to police Irish sky’s … Seriously though, why do Ireland require any air defence, I don’t see any need for it what so ever? If they would rather not have is infringing their airspace, then that’s their right, let Putin fly T160’s across their airspace … Not our problem, big potential issue for Irish Air traffic Control though, seeing Ivan likes to turn off his transponder for a… Read more »


‘Peoples Democratic Republic of Europe’ – to quote Donald Sutherland in ‘The Dirty Dozen’ – ‘niver hoid of it’ !


Lol. Whenever a country has ‘democratic’ in its title, usually infers the exact opposite. When used in the context of the EU, it is the perfect example.

Paul Bestwick

Pssst Eire, wanna buy some slightly used tranche 1 typhoons?


Indeed, Austria’a are up for sale.

Paul T

Paul/Geoff- Typhoons are probably at the high end of what can be afforded regards operating costs etc,thats why Austria wants to replace theirs with something more affordable.In my (very) humble opinion,as expressed here by others id think the Gripen C/D is an obvious choice,allegedly cheap to maintain and operate,rugged,good weapon’s options (no need for Meteor id say,Amraam would be sufficient),used examples available now from Sweden etc etc.As for the 15 Austrian Typhoons I sincerely hope the MOD is considering buying them,in lieu of any further orders.

Nigel Collins

Perfect, and we can replace them with an increased number of Tranche 3.
12 should suffice and as part of the European Union they can lease some to Germany. Job done!


With respect to the senator, the number one priority of any national Government is defense of the realm. If you are worried about ‘threat’s to Irish sovereignty’ maybe Ireland should invest in something more advanced than a turbo prop PC-9M and defend its own airspace.
I commend the Irish government for recognizing its vulnerability and entering into an agreement with a friendly power ‘the UK’, to allow for a joint defense of a shared Island.


Howza about some slightly used Tornados…?

Owned by a British Granny who only flew them on Sundays…


Gary Brady

I agree as an Irish citizen that we should have the determination and willingness to defend or airspace. It is important to note, Eire and UK are close friends and support eachother on a lot of matters.Funny don’t see on this website anywhere how the IAC was recently requested to assist the NI authorities with helicopter support when dealing with gorse fires!!! So a small example of co- operation there. Sometimes I think some in UK forget the above. Many people in UK seem not to recall that the Irish have played there part in the defence of your country… Read more »

Mike Saul

Agreed, good comment


Agreed. Its not as though we’re going to spy on your military bases.


yes their have been many brave Irish men and women who have fought for Britain against tyranny. pity the Irish government are not as noble as its people I recall a news story on the bbc some years ago were the Irish government had lifted a ban on any one who fought for Britain against Hitler from tacking government work and apologised to a man who had lived in poverty instead of staying over the water. five years after his death. ‘lets not forget Hitler made soap out of human beings.

Phil Lynott

As a fellow Irish man Gary, I couldn’t disagree with you more mo chara. Ask yourself this question, who does Ireland need to defend itself from? The only actual enemy Ireland has ever had was Britain. Being linked with Britain is like being bucked by a convicted rapist and you have to pretend to enjoy it. And you think having the RAF circling our nation makes me feel safe?? It makes me feel sick. Never mind burying the past and letting bygones be bygones..if it wasn’t for the EU Ireland would be just about entering the 1990s. The north has… Read more »


Ireland had another enemy in the past – Nazi Germany – which is why it co-operated as much as it could with first Britain and then the USA in WW2. De Valera was well aware what would happen if Britain fell. The Nazis intended to place an ‘Einsatzgruppen’ (Murder squad) in Dublin once they’d taken control.

Mike Saul

This story dates from April 2017, not sure why it has now been published.

The senator in question has a interesting history, emigrated to the UK from Ireland then enlisted into the British army, then left and joined the Irish army.

Mike Saul

I don’t have an opinion on brexit either or the Irish border, that’s why I never mentioned them.


You did this story before.

David Steeper

I can’t remember this article being published before either. Similar maybe but not same.


Not the same but similar:

Irish politician angry that RAF ‘had not informed Ireland’ that Typhoons intercepted Russian bombers off coast
Local media in Ireland is reporting that a politician was angry the UK ‘had not informed Irish civil aviation authorities that they had unleashed their Typhoons’ into air space near Ireland. According to Irish Central, Fianna Fáil’s Transport Spokesperson Timmy Dooley was ‘incensed’ that British aircraft did not notify Irish authorities of their actions (despite them being fully visible to all air traffic control facilities)

David Steeper

Sorry should have scrolled down another centimetre.


He is an independent senator, he has no input into Defense matters.

Mike R

Just a typical old news story dragged up because of Brexit and the Irish border. This politician served in the Royal Irish Rangers before joining his own army (medics) afterwards, therefore he must have been aware of the treaty that exists between our two countries during his military service. I would put his remarks down to nothing more than trying to get a few nationalist votes or influence at the time and would be very surprised if he actually meant it. Put it down to just national politics and take no notice of it as the man only scraped in… Read more »


I think it is, same guy.

It seems to have attracted a few anti-Irish comments.


Have to put QRA aircraft into N Ireland.


I don’t think that’s going to be easy, the only station (Joint Helicopter Command) I can find is

and it appears to use the runways of Belfast International, from google maps. A bit incompatible with the 5 minutes of QRA.


raf ballykelly near derry was closed as an army barracks a few years ago, i believe its still mod property, but it is basically just the land that is useable, it’d need a complete overhaul.

Mike Saul

So my comment pointing out the senator said this last year gets deleted.


Is that where my comment mistakenly assumed to be to you has gone ?

Bloke down the pub

My suspicion is that the government of the day entered this agreement specifically because it did not require parliamentary oversight, which they rightly foresaw would lead to numpties like this asking stupid questions.

Dan B

Oh dear I had this very discussion with an Irish chap on Quora when he was boasting on how adequate Irish defence spending was. Probably coincidence but would love it if this is where this story came from.


A load of hot air. Ireland can enforce nothing and if we wish to reciprocate then we can prevent any passenger aircraft crossing British airspace to/from Ireland and enforce this policy with an airforce (which Ireland doesn’t have) oh…and prevent any ship leaving/bound for an Irish port from crossing into British territorial waters, take that and shove it.


So as far as you’re concerned, the difference between Irish airspace and UK airspace is that the UK can shoot down passenger aircraft containing men, women and children, whereas Ireland can’t? And do you think Ireland doesn’t have any surface to air missiles?


Pretty sure that the one person Irish SAM battery is made up of mark 1 eyeballs and the latest in bow and arrow technology.


It does reflect a potential problem regarding the republics stance on defence. There is nothing wrong with neutrality, unfortunaly others will not respect that and the EU does not have a specific ability to defend a member state. Neutrality generally requires that you to: 1) retain a significant self defence capacity 2) be geographically isolated from any potential enemy 3) have a political agenda that supports neutrality ( it benefits other nations to respect neutrality ) In truth the republic has banked very much on isolation, but I’m not sure can depend on this with how aggressive Russia now probes… Read more »


Eire is actually no longer strictly neutral, though a lot of people there don’t realise it. Defence requirements were added to the last set of EU treaties requiring member states to come to one another’s defence if attacked by a non-EU state.


As we are in peaceful times, the RAF should stop defending their skies. ok it puts the UK at slightly more risk but only slightly and it might force Ireland to either buy some of its own jets and pay it’s way or cover the costs of the RAF protecting it’s airspace, either way it solves this problem and we could revert should the threat level change.


I would want the best of relations between the ROI and the UK but the good Senators comments are graceless and ungrateful. Bottom line-the ROI has no airforce worth speaking of so who else would one chose to assist with this other than a close neighhbour with whom,troubles notwithstanding, one has strong links of language,history, culture and geography? Countries such as the ROI and NZ basically sponge of the military and goodwill of other nations by not providing for their own air defence. Both could afford a small number of fast jets so why don’t they acquire them if some… Read more »

Paul T

Geoff – I would say New Zealand is a different case,geographically its so isolated any scenario where it could be threatened by air would be hard to envisage.


A reply I was going to make as well, then I thought of the expansion of China’s navy and the acquisition of carriers……

Paul T

HF -yes I thought of the Chinese Navy when I wrote too,my answer is that there are many capable nations between China and New Zealand,any potential threat would be dealt with long before any Carrier Group got close enough (obviously in theory) to NZ.


Irish neutrality is a myth they created so they don’t have to spend on defence.

A country is only neutral if it can afford to defend itself as seen in the case of Switzerland or Austria.

Ireland is already loosely aligned to NATO and lets the USAF and CIA use Shannon. Also it is very clear that the country’s interests lie with the wider Western world e.g. Europe and the USA, so in case of an all out war their self declared neutrality would mean sweet FA.

Daniele Mandelli

Good comment.


‘Ireland is already loosely aligned to NATO’ – not doubting you (Sweden was never officially a member but was even more closely aligned) but in what way ? Of course in WW2 Ireland did everything it could to covertly support the western allies.


Well if they do not want any RAF protection from aircraft occupied or taken over by terrorists wishing to dispense complete carnige in Dublin, that’s their call. Then the UK would be blamed for not looking out for our Irish brothers and sisters.

Last time I checked, ROI is considered part for the west no matter how nuetral they claim to be.


Nathan, I respect your opinion in your lengthy reply but you are giving far too much credibility to Trump. He’s just telling people what they want to hear and exhibiting all blinkered selfishness that has characterised him all his life. His remarks at his ‘summit’ with Putin were a disgrace. Imagine if a Labour PM here had made such comments ? Trade wars which he’s instigated do more harm than good. I could go on but he amply makes the point by his utterances and his policies. Supposed to be on the side of the ‘little man’ he’s stuffed his… Read more »


I hope he’s as caustic with the Russians when they infringe Eire airspace. He can either be grateful we cover Eire or buy some advanced jets to do the job themselves.


Considering Senator Craughwell once managed to rise to the rank of Sargent in either the British/Irish Army you would have thought that meant he had something bout him and that he would realise that until Ireland purchase a dedicated air defence fighter, that his country is vulnerable….. I don’t question that the UK/Ireland air defence agreement could be considered by some to be a violation of Irish sovereighty, but despite our past, roles reversed I’d rather the Irish airforce overhead protecting us than the Russians or an unchallenged hijacked airliner. Perhaps our government should offer a joint service where the… Read more »