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In rare defense investment, Ireland will spend around $13 million to replenish EU arms stocks

by Nate Ostiller June 11, 2024 2:27 PM 3 min read
The skyline of the business and financial sector of the Dublin city center on Oct. 7, 2021. (Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images)
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Ireland will invest 12 million euros ($12.9 million) to help replenish depleted EU arms stocks, the Irish Times reported on June 11, citing the country's defense department.

The investment will be spread across two years, the defense department said.

Ireland is not a member of NATO, and has one of the lowest rates of defense spending across the EU, at around 0.2% of its GDP.

Ireland has taken in a significant number of Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the full-scale war, estimated to be just shy of 100,000, around 73,000 of whom were living in state-provided housing at the end of 2023. The cost of such a program is thought to be around 1.5 billion euros a year ($1.6 billion). Ireland has since implemented sharp cuts in the benefits offered to Ukrainian refugees.

At the same time, the government has remained committed to not providing lethal military aid.

When asked by the Irish Times if the news constituted a change in government policy, the defense department said that Irish "direct military assistance to Ukraine continues to consist of non-lethal military support only."

According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, which tracks international aid for Ukraine, Irish direct financial support totaled 135 million euros ($144.9 million) as of April 2024.  

As a percentage of its GDP, Irish aid for Ukraine is ranked among the lowest of all EU member states, at 0.029%—only higher than Malta and Cyprus.

Hungary, which is widely thought to be one of the most Ukraine-skeptic EU states, is ranked higher, at 0.032% of its GDP.

An op-ed published in Politico in May criticized Ireland's defense policy, saying that despite its strategic location and possession of crucial territorial waters, it has "abdicated responsibility for protecting Europe's northwestern borders."

Ireland has committed to military neutrality and effectively "outsourced its security" to the U.K., the op-ed said.

The dearth in defense spending coincides with a massive growth in Ireland's economy over the past few decades. According to Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency, Ireland had the second highest GDP per capita in the EU in 2022, coming in behind Luxembourg in first place.

Beyond policy, two of Ireland's members of the European Parliament, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, are among the most outspoken opponents of aid for Ukraine within the legislative body.

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Shortly after the investment in the EU arms initiative was announced, Daly said it was a "massive threat to our security and an attack on (our) neutrality."

In a post on June 11 that did not directly reference Ireland's funding for the arms replenishment, Wallace said that "Europe has been hijacked by warmongers who only serve the interests of the elite."

Both Daly and Wallace ran to retain their seats in the parliamentary election that concluded on June 9. While both are currently trailing as the votes are being counted, they may be able to still eke out a victory.

Ireland set to introduce significant reduction in benefits for Ukrainian refugees
The proposed changes would reduce the welfare payments for Ukrainians and offer state-run housing for 90 days, after which refugees would have to find their own housing. The existing scheme allows for Ukrainian refugees to stay in state-provided housing indefinitely.
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