Defence money could be better spent

AT THE outset I want to make it clear that I have the highest regard for the work that the Irish military has done to keep peace in every corner of the world. Especially as such work has cost the lives of 82 Irish peacekeepers.

I am just wondering whether the resources we spend on defence wouldn’t be better spent on economic development around the world.

Ireland spent e754m on the Defence Forces last year. Now obviously a lot of that money would have to be spent anyway. The Naval Service is needed to patrol our waters against illegal fishing and drug traffickers. The Air Corps is required for search and rescue. The Army is required in times of emergency.

But do we need over nearly 11,000 in the military? Nearly half the spend (e350m) goes out in wages.

It is apparent that much of the planning in the Army is being geared toward service overseas. By the signals coming from the military you get the impression that they would like to be involved more in, shall we say, international military manoeuvres.

That’s fair enough. That’s what soldiers want to do.

The question is – what do we want our foreign policy to do?

Wars are a major source of economic underdevelopment. And visa versa.

The best guarantee of international stability, of human rights and of peace is prosperity. By and large a stable society is one where the majority of the people have a stake. The most volatile areas of the world are those where the gap between the rich and poor is greatest and where the rich monopolise power and property.

So I would argue that if we are to spend a euro on foreign policy it should be spent on economic development, health and education of the poorest people in the world.

Next year we will spend e340m on Ireland Aid, the foreign aid programme, as against e840m on defence. I don’t think that this is the right balance.

Furthermore, we seem to be getting ourselves into a position where we have to make even greater commitments to defence spending. We are now in the NATO-led Partnership for Peace. We have committed ourselves to the EU’s Rapid Reaction Force. And, of course, we signed up to the Amsterdam Treaty with its Petersburg Tasks, which include ‘peacemaking’ (as opposed to peacekeeping).

All of this is going to take guns and training. It’s the wrong solution to the world’s problems and with our experience of imperialism we should be pointing this out in the places that matter.

At the G8 summit the rich countries nearly crippled themselves to come up with $1b in debt relief. Yet the same countries could find $40b for the so-called war on terrorism.

We have similar decisions to make. But already we have cut the allocation to Ireland Aid by e32m. I haven’t heard of any defence cuts. We must be able to do better than that.

As Well As That. . .

Clancy Barracks sale – missed opportunity…

IN ORDER to pay for 40 armoured cars costing €50m, the Government is selling off Clancy Barracks in Islandbridge.

This barracks covers nearly 14 acres and is located near to Heuston Station and only meters from its new western platform.

Therefore it was ideally located for a modern high density urban design with minimal reliance on cars. Dublin City Council could have opened a design competition for a development housing up to 1,500 people.

Instead, it was sold to the highest bidder who won’t have any other motive than to make a few bob.

A wasted opportunity.

…and daft economics

THE sale of Clancy Barracks breaks one of the cardinal rules of both economics and common sense: you don’t spend capital on day-to-day goods.

What happens when the armoured cars wear out? Sell more land?

More importantly, these barracks are not just army property – they are public property.