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Ireland in new agreement with Nato to counter potential threats to undersea infrastructure

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IRELAND HAS JOINED a new agreement with Nato which will see enhanced cooperation aimed at protecting against potential threats to undersea infrastructure and cybersecurity.

The Individually Tailored Partnership Programme (ITPP) will allow for greater information and intelligence sharing with the military alliance in areas such as peacekeeping, maritime security and tackling cyber and hybrid threats.

The agreement comes as a result of an increased hybrid threat level due to the war in Ukraine. 

The Department of Defence told The Journal that the ITPP is partner-led and voluntary in nature. It was agreed bilaterally between Ireland and Nato on the basis of a set of mutually agreed goals.

Ireland has been a partner with Nato since 1999 when it joined the Partnership for Peace programme, which was set up to strengthen security relationships between Nato and non-member countries. 

The framework for cooperation with Ireland was previously governed by the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP). That has now been replaced by the ITPP. 

Other neutral European countries, including Austria, Malta and Switzerland, are also in the process of agreeing or have already agreed their respective ITPPs with Nato.

Minister of State for Defence Peter Burke told RTÉ’s News at One programme that there is a “varying degree of threats” facing Ireland now compared to in 1999.

He said Ireland is investing heavily in its offshore infrastructure, such as subsea cables, gas pipelines and the Celtic Interconnector, an underwater electricity link between Cork and Brittany that will have the capacity to power 450,000 homes. 

“We need data and information to share with other countries in terms of the threats that we face,” Burke said.

He said that as part of the cooperative agreement, Ireland will be able to access the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center in Estonia and view a mock operation of an attack on cybersecurity.

“We can see that field work unfolding and how we can resource ourselves to meet that challenge if we were to face a massive cyber attack, which we did with our HSE.”

Burke also repeated that the agreement poses no risks to Ireland’s neutrality and the Government is not seeking to join Nato. 

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan was also questioned about whether this signalled a drift towards Nato membership during a press conference, following the launch of the party’s Yes campaign for the upcoming referendums. 

“We’re not going to join Nato. Our neutrality is supported by the Irish people and it serves us well and correctly,” Ryan said. 

“I believe it’s appropriate that we would use the resources of other institutions like Nato to help protect our people. The attack on the health system from that cyber attack two years ago was a huge cost, so we do have to protect our people in this.

“Our neutrality remains a central core of Government policy, of national policy, and this does not in any way infringe it.”

Last year, The Journal travelled to Portugal and witnessed an Irish team of Naval Service Divers working on perfecting undersea capabilities.

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