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The security of the State and its citizens is a primary responsibility of government.

The government considers broad security threats that face the State. The lead role in responding to these threats can rest with a range of departments and agencies and there are a number of key trends and threats that are likely to influence the security environment in future years.

The government considers the geo-political security environment and the domestic security environment.

Defence policy framework

The White Paper on Defence (2015) provides the strategic and comprehensive defence policy framework for the period up to 2025.

In acknowledgement that security is the bedrock on which a society’s achievements are built, the White Paper sets out a comprehensive and forward-looking assessment of the security environment and, drawing from this, provides:

  • the policy framework for defence of the state from armed aggression
  • the defence contribution to domestic security (including a wide range of day-to-day supports to An Garda Síochána)
  • the defence contribution to international peace and security.

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High-level goal

The Department of Defence's Strategy Statement established the high-level goal of the Defence organisation (which is made up of both the Department of Defence as well as the Defence Forces).

"To provide for the military defence of the State, contribute to national and international peace and security and fulfill all other roles assigned by government.'

This High Level Goal comprises three broad strategic dimensions:

  • defence policy
  • ensuring the capacity to deliver
  • Defence Forces operational outputs

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International Security

No state acting alone can address the entirety of existing and emerging security challenges. They require a co-ordinated, collaborative and integrated collective response drawing on a wide range of policy instruments at national level and through multilateral collective security arrangements. Ireland through its proactive engagement with the UN, the EU, the OSCE and NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) , and bilaterally with other states, continues to contribute to a range of cooperative and collaborative security arrangements in support of international peace and security.

Ireland maintains a policy of military neutrality which is characterised by non-membership of military alliances and non-participation in common or mutual defence arrangements.

Deployment of Defence Forces’ personnel on peace support missions is undertaken in accordance with relevant legislation, which contains the requirement for Government, Dáil and UN approval, known as the “triple-lock”.

This provision applies in all circumstances where more than 12 personnel are to be deployed on a peace support mission. However, under the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006 personnel may also be deployed for such reasons as training and humanitarian operations under the sole authority of the Government.

The Defence Forces have a long and proud history of service overseas and have had a continuous presence on peace support operations since 1958. Currently the Defence Forces operate in a number of locations and participate in multinational peace support, crisis management and humanitarian relief operations in support of the UN and under UN authorisation.

Defence Forces

The Defence Forces consist of a Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and a Reserve Defence Force (RDF).

The PDF consists of the Army, the Air Corps and the Naval Service with an overall establishment of 9,500 personnel. In addition, in the region of 430 civilian employees are engaged throughout the Defence Forces.


The Army provides the land component of the State’s Defence capabilities. On a day-to-day basis the Army provides a broad range of supports to the State these include activities in support of An Garda Síochána such as providing prisoner escorts, explosive ordnance disposal and security duties at Shannon Airport and also tasks in support of the civil authorities such as the provision of assistance in severe weather events and is an integral part of the State’s response to many contingencies.

Air Corps

The Air Corps is based at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, and consists of an operational headquarters, two operational wings, two support wings, the Air Corps Training College, and a Communication and Information Services Squadron. On a day-to-day basis, the Air Corps undertakes Army Support, Fishery Protection Patrols, and provides a Ministerial Air Transport Service.

The Air Corps also supports An Garda Síochána, by providing pilots and technical support for the Garda Air Support Unit (GASU), and the HSE through provision of a helicopter, pilots and technical support for the Emergency Aeromedical Support (EAS) service and the HSE’s emergency inter-hospital air ambulance service.

Naval Service

The Naval Service is based at Haulbowline, Co. Cork, where it has an operational headquarters, an operations command, a logistical support command and a Naval Service College.

The Naval Service is the State’s principal sea going agency and provides a broad range of supports in the maritime domain. On any given patrol day, the Naval Service can carry out a number of taskings on behalf of other State agencies such as the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners.

Reserve Defence Force

The Reserve Defence Force consists of the First Line Reserve, the Army Reserve and the Naval Service Reserve. The Army Reserve has an establishment of 3,869 personnel and the Naval Service Reserve has an establishment of 200 personnel. The primary role of the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) is to augment the PDF in crisis situations.

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Civil Defence

Civil Defence is a volunteer-based organisation that provides essential supports in time of need to An Garda Síochána, the HSE and the local authorities (these are sometimes called the Principal Response Agencies).

The government is committed to the continued development of Civil Defence around its central strategic objective of supporting the Principal Response Agencies in a variety of emergency and non-emergency situations.

These include dealing with severe weather events and searching for missing persons. Each year, Civil Defence also provides support at over 1,000 community, sporting and charitable events across the country. The Department of Defence is responsible for Civil Defence policy and the strategic management and development of the organisation.

There are 29 Civil Defence Units (one in each local authority) nationwide. Operational control and day to day management of Civil Defence Units rests with the relevant local authority.