The Department of Defence has refused to comment on claims by a number of Irish Examiner sources that an agreement was reached some years ago between the Irish and British governments about protecting this country’s airspace from terrorist threats.
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.
Civil servants from the 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 for Defence, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The agreement permits the British military to conduct armed operations in Irish sovereign or Irish-controlled airspace in the event of a real time or envisaged threat of a terrorist-related attack from the skies on either this country or a neighbouring state.
The Department of Defence refused to comment on a number of questions posed by the Irish Examiner about the agreement.
It said that primary responsibility for the internal security of the State rests with the Department of Justice and Equality and the gardaí, and that it is the long-standing practice of the department not to make any comment on operational or security matters that may affect the State.
One British source said that if a plane coming from the US was hijacked close to this country “the Irish would expect British help”.
The Air Corps has no jet fighters which would be capable of shooting down commercial jets.