Irish Defence Minister Simon Coveney T.D. welcomed the British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon M.P. to Dublin Castle where they signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Defence, Ireland and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence on enhancement on certain aspects of Security and Defence Cooperation. The visit marked a historic moment for both countries, with Mr Fallon, being the first UK Defence Minister ever to make an official visit to Ireland.
The signing of the Memorandum represents a major step forward in the process of formalising the already broad and strong relationship the the two countries have. recognising their shared interests, values and responsibilities. It will provide both the d Ireland and the UK with a means for developing and furthering their already excellent defence and security relations and will help to enhance cooperation in exercises, training as well as peacekeeping and crisis management operations.
Examples of the UK and Irish Armed Forces already working together include peacekeeping missions in Mali during 2013, and more recently, alongside each other in Sierra Leone, where the United Kingdom is leading international efforts to halt the spread of the Ebola Virus.
Mr Coveney said “the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding places existing cooperation arrangements in the Defence area between Ireland and the UK on a more formal and enduring footing. The Memorandum of Understanding is a voluntary, non-binding arrangement between the Department of Defence and the UK Ministry of Defence and does not affect or prejudice the position, policy or security arrangements of either country”.
The drafting of the Memorandum arose from the initiative for increased co-operation across all areas of Government in the East-West relationship between Ireland and the UK which is led by the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister at Head of Government level. The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding will be followed by the drafting of a three-year Action Plan that will contain the detailed programme of bilateral co-operation activities for the forthcoming year and set the objectives for the succeeding two years. This may include military forces training, exercises and education, joint procurement and general sharing on reform in defence services.
The Minister went on to say that, “the Memorandum of Understanding and the associated Work Programme will also support the development of a greater mutual understanding of the policy considerations underlying our respective actions and engagement in multilateral arrangements for collective security such as the UN. It provides opportunities for more joint and collaborative work in support of international peace and security. It will also enhance the potential for further joint contributions to UN peacekeeping operations”.
British Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, said he welcomed the opportunity to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with Ireland. He said it very much reaffirmed the British government’s resolve to build on and strengthen the existing strong links between the Armed Forces of Ireland and the UK. Looking to the future, this agreement will importantly help us both to improve our defence and security cooperation, including conflict prevention and crisis management, he said.