Over the past week, the Irish media have circulated reports that a secret agreement exists between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom that permits Royal Air Force fighter aircraft to enter Irish airspace in order to shoot down hijacked airliners in a 9/11-type scenario. The story broke on Monday when The Irish Examiner claimed that it had five credible sources within the Irish government and one close to the UK government that the agreement does exist although the Irish Department of Defence refused to answer questions on the topic.
The Irish Examiner claims that the agreement was reached between the Irish departments of defence, foreign affairs and the Irish Aviation Authority and their UK counterparts. As part of the agreement to protect Ireland from such a scenario as the 9/11 attacks, the RAF could also operate in Irish airspace if it was suspected that the hijacked aircraft was to be used against the UK.
At present the Irish Air Corps has no fast-jet combat aircraft of its own. It does have a number of Pilatus PC-9 intermediate trainers that provide air policing duties but these are prop-driven aircraft that lack the speed or firepower of an air superiority fighter such as the RAF’s Typhoon FGR.4. Some sources have suggested that the agreement may also concern the problem of Russian bombers operating close to Irish airspace which have caused major problems for the Irish air traffic control gird and to which the Irish have been unable to counter themselves.
Responding to The Irish Eaxminer’s claims, the Irish Department of Defence reiterated 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.
The Republic of Ireland has long held a militarily neutral stance on the world stage and is not a member of NATO. Earlier this year the British and Irish governments signed an historic military cooperation agreement but this primarily concerned training.