564. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the implications for expenditure in his Department over the coming years if Ireland joins PESCO; his plans to ensure a full public debate on the matter before the decision is made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52893/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The Deputy will be aware that the allocations for defence already announced in the budget, which were based on the commitments set out in the White Paper on Defence, means that Ireland’s Defence expenditure will increase in real terms over the coming three years.

While some additional costs may arise in respect of participation in specific PESCO Project(s) similar to the case where the Defence Forces participate in EDA Projects, as the projects will relate to the ongoing development of Defence Forces capabilities for peace support and crisis management operations, such costs would be incurred in the normal course and will therefore be met from within the Defence Vote.

The matter of Ireland’s participation in PESCO has been the subject of extensive discussion prior to its approval by the Dáil on 07 December, 2017. It has been the subject of European Council and Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions over the past six months which have been debated and discussed in Dáil Éireann and its Committees. Parliamentary Questions have been frequently answered, a Seanad Éireann Commencement Matter was taken on 21 November, 2017 and a Dáil Éireann Topical Debate taken, also on the 21st November. On 06 December, 2017, I attended the meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence at which I fully set out the position on Ireland’s intended participation in PESCO and answered questions from members.

It is also worth recalling that PESCO was comprehensively debated in the context of the Lisbon Treaty which was approved by the Irish People when they voted on the Treaty in October 2009. PESCO was specifically referenced in the Lisbon Treaty Protocol to address the concerns of the Irish People and in Ireland’s national declaration. The Legislation setting down Ireland’s approval process for PESCO was published in advance of that Vote and enacted in November 2009.