A new report published today by Policy Exchange – backed by former Defence Secretaries Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon KCB and Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen KT – sets out how the deteriorating threat landscape, and persistent Irish security freeloading, require the UK to rediscover the strategic importance of Northern Ireland to its national security.

With the imminent restoration of Stormont, following the publication of the Government’s command paper ‘Safeguarding the Union’, the time is right to focus on the wider issues surrounding British-Irish security relations.

Russia once more poses a maritime threat to the Western Approaches to the British Isles, through and around which much transatlantic critical maritime infrastructure passes.

“The UK also faces a back-door threat from the growing Iranian, Russian and Chinese presence in the Republic of Ireland, a mounting challenge for a chronically deficient Irish security and intelligence apparatus. The Republic’s Defence Forces and security apparatus remain entirely inadequate, the result of a defence budget of less than 0.5% of GDP since 2000.

With polling indicating that Sinn Fein is a serious contender in the 2025 election, there seems little prospect of the Republic’s performance on security issues improving any time soon. The Party’s longstanding hostility to the UK, and opposition to firmer Irish commitment to Western security, mean that any Government it leads will be no friend to British interests. This report therefore calls for the UK Government to expand its naval and air presence in Northern Ireland for maritime patrol missions against Russian intrusion. It also urges the UK and its regional partners to unite and up the ante in pressing Dublin to do its fair share for collective security.”

Policy Exchange today argues that the external threats facing the UK are so acute as to demand renewed focus on the strategic importance of Northern Ireland. Russia is testing the vulnerability of the undersea cables and pipelines situated around our western flank.  Meanwhile, the expanding Russian, Chinese and Iranian presence in the Republic signals the intent to infiltrate, and interfere in, the transatlantic community.

These risks are compounded by the Republic’s reluctance to invest sufficiently in its military and security apparatus. Ongoing attempts to reform the Irish Defence Forces are crawling forward, which will leave the Republic incapable of policing its own waters – or keeping a watchful eye on potentially hostile elements embedded in Irish society – for years to come.

Policy Exchange’s report makes the case for reintegrating Northern Ireland as a vital component of British national security. It calls on the UK Government to restore the UK’s active naval and air presence on the western side of the Irish Sea, which has played a decisive role throughout history in fending off external threats. Such radical steps would demonstrate that the UK can no longer tolerate the unsatisfactory state of British-Irish security relations and should be backed up with forceful diplomatic pressure to encourage the Republic to do more for our collective security.

In a foreword in support of the report, Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon KCB and Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen KT write:

As Defence Secretaries in different governments at different times, we know that little attention was paid to the security of the island of Ireland in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War. We therefore welcome this new report from Policy Exchange, which powerfully reasserts the strategic importance of Ireland, and especially Northern Ireland, to the UK’s national security … Russian intelligence ships and warships have been identified off the Irish coast and close to key transatlantic cables. The growing Russian, Iranian and Chinese presence in the Republic poses a backdoor threat to the United Kingdom itself.”

To bring Northern Ireland back into the UK’s national security arrangements, Policy Exchange’s report proposes the following recommendations:

  • ENHANCE NAVAL AND AIR PRESENCE IN NORTHERN IRELAND: The UK no longer has an adequate Royal Navy and RAF presence in Northern Ireland to police the Western Approaches, and out into the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap. This leaves our critical maritime infrastructure wide open to Russian meddling. To restore our deterrence and defence, the Government must re-establish sufficient Northern Irish air and naval facilities to run regular maritime patrol missions around the northwestern flank.
  • INTEGRATE NORTHERN IRISH BASES INTO THE NATIONAL DEFENCE COMMAND STRUCTURE: Scottish bases are over-stretched to protect the UK’s northern flank single-handedly. A restored strategic presence in Northern Ireland would alleviate this burden, whilst complicating Russian decision-making by offering two platforms for defensive deployment.
  • APPLY GREATER PRESSURE ON THE REPUBLIC TO CONTRIBUTE TO COLLECTIVE SECURITY: For decades, the Republic has scarcely contributed to the collective security it enjoys with its partners. By moving unilaterally to defend its western flank, the UK will signal to the Republic that the status quo security arrangement is no longer acceptable. The Government should point to its Northern Irish naval and air expansion, and the mutual external threats both countries face, to urge the Republic to expedite its military and security reforms.
  • ENCOURAGE ALLIES TO PRESS THE REPUBLIC INTO FASTER MILITARY AND SECURITY UPGRADES: The UK is not alone in being threatened by Irish intransigence over collective security, which compromises the security of all transatlantic maritime infrastructure. As the UK and its allies continue to invest more time and money into protecting this infrastructure, frustration at Irish reluctance is mounting. The UK Government should coordinate a united front, amongst regional partners with joint strategic interests in transatlantic maritime security, to push the Republic to play its part.
  • KEEP THE DOOR OPEN FOR IRISH ENTRY INTO COLLECTIVE SECURITY INITIATIVES IN THE LONG RUN The Republic can no longer opt out of defending the world order from which it benefits. Indeed, it is already being probed as the potentially weak underbelly of the transatlantic community. The long-term goal must be for the Republic to integrate properly into the multilateral security initiatives which defend that community. When the Republic proves its newfound commitment to collective security, by developing a robust military and security apparatus, the UK Government should encourage it to participate further in multilateral initiatives, such as the Joint Expeditionary Force.

Policy Exchange author Marcus Solarz Hendriks comments :

“With Russia increasingly probing the vulnerability of transatlantic maritime infrastructure, the UK must take action to police its northwestern waters. As the Republic remains an unable and unwilling partner in the face of this threat, the UK Government must take matters into its own hands by restoring its air and naval presence in Northern Ireland. The penetration of Irish society by Russia, China and Iran also raises grave concerns over a back-door threat to the UK. The UK cannot do the job of the Irish state for it but – by fundamentally changing the nature of Northern Irish security arrangements  – it will send a strong signal to the Republic that our patience for its evasive commitment to collective security has worn thin.”

Click here for the report.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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monkey spanker
monkey spanker
5 days ago

Keep ur hands of me lucky charms.
Perhaps the answer is to let them get on with it themselves while putting the effort into Irish Sea and the area outside the Irish controlled zones. Inform them of what’s going into their area and let them deal with it.
Or go Russian style and false flag them repeatedly then state ethnic British are under attack and invade.

Jim
Jim
5 days ago
Reply to  monkey spanker

Perhaps Joe Biden can intercede with Americas other greatest Allie and get them to start paying their way for collective European defence instead of just funnelling off all the corporation tax from Europe and the US.

lonpfrb
lonpfrb
1 day ago
Reply to  Jim

Absolutely that and his standing with Irish American voters and Big Tech who rely on cable infrastructure should provide strong motivation.

Perhaps an overdue MoD DoD conversation…

Andy reeves
Andy reeves
1 day ago
Reply to  Jim

Never trust a Frenchie

John
John
5 days ago

Be honest it always has been the case. And always will be until a Republic that stops dining out on hatred of the British changes its tune. For a country who’s citizens enjoy enhanced rights within the UK? They have historically shown a lack of reciprocation. History proves the Republic will not act except in its own interests. The constant interference in the Six Counties, Brexit meddling, support for terrorists in the north. Then the whining to the USA? All symptomatic of ROI politicians. As for defence? Freeloaders.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
5 days ago

All true: sadly.

Next problem is to stop Ireland siphoning off all our tech corporation tax receipts with their absurdly low rates.

Then we can pay for our own defence uplifts….with real money.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
5 days ago

We’re doing a pretty good job of creating our own threats by not funding our military

Andrew D
Andrew D
5 days ago

👍

Jim
Jim
5 days ago

It’s daft stating that Scottish bases are overstretched when we have bases in Scotland either shut down or not being used.

Northern Ireland is no where near as strategic as the North of Scotland in dealing with a Russian threat.

Better to focus any defence spending in NI on getting H&W up to speed as well as missile production.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
4 days ago
Reply to  Jim

I agree. Scotland is better placed. Facilities facing Western Approaches off the South West of England to be made at least ready. Influence inside Ireland can only be monitored never challenged for reasons well known and too dreary to repeat. Having more of everything would help our own military also.

Sonik
Sonik
1 day ago
Reply to  Jim

I agree, but the prospect of increased UK military presence in NI will be uncomfortable for ROI and particularly Sinn Fein, which may just encourage them to pull their finger out and sort out their own defence.

Mark
Mark
17 hours ago
Reply to  Sonik

Looks at the hundred years of U.K. forces/bases in NI and the concern Dublin has had about it…
Want to bet that it has any effect?
The investments that are likely to happen are planned out already with the MRV and potentially the Primary Radar tenders going out this year, while the update agreement with NATO has already been signed off.
The U.K. study groups or defence investment in NI isn’t going to change that.

Michael Hannah
Michael Hannah
5 days ago

I wouldn’t worry , why go round to the back door when the front door is made of paper.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 days ago

RAF Aldergrove lost its flying station status years ago.

It’s army regiment, 5 AAC, is hanging on by its fingernails and may convert to another role, possibly UAV. Most of its assets are long gone.

There are no ASCS assets in NI I’m aware of, RAF Bishops Court closed many years ago.
38 ( Irish ) Brigade is mostly reservists.

The only thing of strategic importance to the defence of the UK that I can think of in NI is within Palace Barracks.

Dern
Dern
2 days ago

Don’t think there’s any sub-units in 38 Irish anymore are there? Isn’t it just the RPOC for N. Ireland and responsible for co-ordinating any MACA tasking that occur in the region.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Hi Dern. Good to see you back.
Yes, I believe so.

Dern
Dern
2 days ago

Cheers!

Andrew D
Andrew D
5 days ago

Let Biden worry about it he’s all for the Irish ,no not against them some great people but when it comes to the UK he’s reluctant 🙄🇺🇸

lonpfrb
lonpfrb
1 day ago
Reply to  Andrew D

A great opportunity to put British noses out of joint and do the right thing for America if he’s so minded.

I got the impression that he resented being pushed to support Ukraine by Ben Wallace’s courageous leadership. Thus the NATO SecGen snub for Ben.

Surely there’s plenty of US national interest in the Pentagon mentoring Irish Defense…

Jacko
Jacko
4 days ago

The new SF first minister will fight ANY expansion of British forces here in NI! She can’t even bring herself to say Northern Ireland let alone agree we are part of the UK.

lonpfrb
lonpfrb
1 day ago
Reply to  Jacko

Fortunately Defence not a devolved power?

Economic aspect to be considered too, H&W, Shorts etc…

Jacko
Jacko
1 day ago
Reply to  lonpfrb

Maybe👍 but she would spin it as if we are invading Ireland😂

Mickey
Mickey
4 days ago

It should also be noted that the increased funding to the Irish Defence Forces and the new salary/benefit offering to new recruits ( also serving members) is bearing fruit. Enlistment numbers in the service are up including in the Navy. This include investment in barracks facilities across the country. Money is also being earmarked for the purchasing of the various equipment for the three services outlined in the agreed upon LO2 report. The Irish Army Rangers are being reorganized into a more mobile fast ready for use force similar to the special operations forces of other western states. Ireland also… Read more »

Last edited 4 days ago by Mickey
Mark
Mark
17 hours ago
Reply to  Mickey

And the updated agreement with NATO has been agreed today as well, do you think it will change any of the usual comments? Even if we were at LoA3 capabilities right now it would be the same.

Mickey
Mickey
16 hours ago
Reply to  Mark

I saw that agreement. Knew it was coming when I saw the Irish, Austrian and Swiss defence chiefs in Brussels a month ago.

Its’s quite the deal that I can see for infrastructure and cyber security assistance.

And as to the usual comments, they should do their homework before posting.

Mark
Mark
16 hours ago
Reply to  Mickey

Its interesting alright, and with both the MRV and Radar procurement looking like they are finally progressing, some big ticket items, next up some AC expansion/replacement and the Army’s new vehicles.

Mickey
Mickey
5 hours ago
Reply to  Mark

Primary Radar, MRV and the new C-295 MP planes , facility upgrades and new Helicopters in 5 years are all great leaps in the right direction

If Ireland can buy into the European Patrol Corvette program then they would get great value for ships at shared costs with other EU states. Ireland would need 4 of them.

The only thing I heard about new army vehicles is mobile AA and mobile artillery vehicles that are being considered.

Mark
Mark
5 hours ago
Reply to  Mickey

EPC variants are being talked about quietly in the base as the logic replacement for the P50s that will need their replacement program started around 2030 when the EPC should be in production.

For the Army, the LTAVs are to be replaced (as what e have are utter shite) and the entire MOWAG fleet is to be replaced in the same 2028ish timeframe, though there’s issues with the DOD trying to run so many procurement projects at the same time, the mobile artillery/mobile AA is tied into that depending on how things work out with the current structure review.

Mickey
Mickey
1 minute ago
Reply to  Mark

A lot going on which is good.

Tom
Tom
4 days ago

Ah there ya go… The Royal Navy is undermanned/wommaned, its short on ships, and it’s all down to the Irish!

Andy reeves
Andy reeves
1 day ago

Retired?!!!! We’ve only just got it