The Sudan evacuation highlights the weakness of Ireland’s defence policy, the Tánaiste has said.
Yesterday, the Government sent 12 members of the Defence Forces to Africa to facilitate the evacuation of Irish citizens from Sudan as intense fighting continues in the Sudan capital Khartoum.
The Government estimates there are around 150 Irish people living in Sudan, of whom one third have since been evacuated to safety.
“Up to 50 Irish citizens were evacuated since yesterday in Khartoum to Djibouti with the support of France and Spain - and this is part of a wider coordinated evacuation of European Union citizens,” Minister Martin told Newstalk Breakfast.
“I want to thank the French authorities [and] particularly the Spanish authorities for doing a remarkable job so quickly in evacuating so many EU citizens - and indeed citizens beyond Europe - over the last 24 hours.”
Statement on situation in Sudan. pic.twitter.com/rPKBHR0bsW
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) April 23, 2023
Minister Martin predicted it would be a “number of days” before all willing Irish citizens could be evacuated and said the Government is “relatively pleased” with the progress so far.
The Tánaiste also said he favoured reform of the Triple Lock - which means Ireland can only deploy members of the Defence Forces if it has the permission of the United Nations, the Government and the Oireachtas.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has previously described the triple lock as a “source of strength” but Minister Martin said it was time for some “very serious reflection” on the matter.
“I have publicly said that I believe it needs to be changed,” he said.
“Why? Because we now have as part of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council [countries] - particularly Russia - who are unlikely to approve peacekeeping missions.
“So, are we essentially saying Russia should have a veto on Ireland’s peacekeeping missions in the future? That’s a very real possibility.
“So, yes we do need to review that but that will need a change in legislation.”
He warned, however, that the situation underlines the need for more investment in the Defence Forces.
“I think we do need additional strategic airlift as they call it,” he said.
“Primarily to get people in place much more quickly in terms of Defence Forces personnel and I ordered that we would develop that strategic airlift capacity.
“Within a month or two of being in office, I instructed and got Government approval to do that.”
The Tánaiste also said the Government was looking at collaborating with other European countries on defence procurement.
“We can work with other European Union countries perhaps on securing that capacity as well,” he said.
“That’s something I want to explore because some European countries have come together to explore that capacity.
“That would have been used, for example, in Afghanistan during the evacuation of European citizens from Afghanistan.”
Last year, the Government announced defence spending would rise from €1bn to €1.5bn annually by the year 2028.
Main image: Micheál Martin. Picture by: AG News / Alamy Stock Photo