OPINION: A colossus of the seas that will be the talk of mariners

October 23rd, 2017 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team


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PERHAPS it’s about time the plain people of Ireland put Fine Gael’s mini-minister with responsibility for the Irish Navy, Paul Kehoe, somewhere where he can do no harm; like up front for Cobh Ramblers!

Because, whether he knows it or not, Kehoe, with the consent of his boss, Vlad the Impaler, is about to damage this country’s economy. 

And here’s the reason why:  Kehoe’s ministerial brief includes the acquisition and maintenance of offshore fishery protection vessels. We have six and another one, with the ridiculous name of ‘George Bernard Shaw,’ is in the pipeline. 

But that’s not enough for Kehoe and Varadkar. Their EU chums have tasked them with the responsibility of purchasing a colossus of the seas, a naval vessel of such size that some day it will be the talk of mariners everywhere. Particularly impressed are those Jolly Jack Tars on the neighbouring island who pursue the warmongering tradition of Sir Francis Drake and Horatio Nelson.

Keogh and Varadkar are prepared to pay (on our behalf, of course) a sea-sickening two hundred million euros for the ship’s construction; money that (if the politicos had a social conscience) would help build a new road to Limerick from Cork, relieve chronic overcrowding at the CUH, or provide new schools.


New role for Navy

This aquatic behemoth (at least within the context of the size of Irish naval vessels) is a sort of warship-cum-hospital ship, measuring 150m in length and almost twice the length of the vessels currently used by our Haulbowline matelots.

It has the capacity to carry an infantry company and all its equipment and, it seems, the vessel will be used for military operations that involve EU naval forces in the deployment of military assets, such as weaponry, vehicles, military personnel and supplies.

The size, operational equipment and cost of the vessel imply that the day is gone when the role of the Irish Naval Service was primarily fisheries patrol, and search and rescue off the Irish coast.

Indeed, the ship’s full potential only will come into play in the event of Irish involvement in international landings of troops and equipment, which are not humanitarian-focussed.

Let’s not forget either this quaint bit of information: Wikipedia tells us that the vessel Fine Gael wants to purchase will be able to carry military personnel to remote theatres of war. As well, it has facilities for the evacuation of non-combatants and those in need of medical aid.


Our neutral status?

In other words, in the event of an assault carried out by EU forces, Vlad’s ship will take fightin’ Irish men and women directly into the conflict.  

Now, isn’t that exciting and don’t you feel proud of our Warrior-Taoiseach and his loyal follower Paul Kehoe? 

Their readiness to spend a huge sum of our money on a troop carrier while at the same time, underplaying, or never mentioning, our internationally-recognised neutral status is astonishing.

As well, the vessel’s up-to-date onboard hospital, operating theatre and morgue should come in handy should there be wounded and, God forbid, dead Irish soldiers.

And, dear reader, if you haven’t already fallen from your chair in shock at the Navy’s possible and sudden change in role, we have something else to tell you. The hospital ship-cum-troop carrier that Fine Gael intends purchasing is a glugger! 

Yes, it’s a compendium of engineering problems, thanks to the proverbial b**ls-up made by the New Zealand navy which designed the vessel.


Double the price

But Department of Defence officials and Haulbowline ‘experts’ are undeterred and are off on a ‘jolly’ to see for themselves the blood-curdling problems the HMNZS Canterbury experienced since it was commissioned in 2007.

Ongoing difficulties comprise dysfunctional anti-roll systems, stability problems, loss of ship’s boats in heavy seas, and the death of a crewmember! Oh, and endless controversy from a mocking New Zealand public, infuriated at Kiwi naval incompetence.

There’s more on which to ruminate: the cost of construction to New Zealand was €78 million, much less than the €200m that Vlad claims he’ll be forking out to keep Ireland (and the EU) safe.

In other words we’ll be paying double the price; and nobody knows as to why this should be the case! Certainly the families of sailors, soldiers and airmen who protested outside every military installation in this country last April will be seeking an explanation from Mr Vlad and Mr Kehoe.

The families and dependents of Department of Defence personnel were making a simple point: that it is impossible to survive on the ‘starvation wages’ paid to their husbands, sons and daughters.

 As a result, many experienced members of the Defence Forces are making every effort  to get out and return to civvies-street where they can earn a liveable wage.

At the same time, for those who are abandoning the Defence Forces because of poor pay, it seems ironic that there is no shortage of State funding for a badly-designed vanity project whose only purpose is to justify the hawkish EU capers of our armchair admirals.


Explanations needed

To make matters worse, ordinary citizens are bewildered at Fine Gael’s determination to turn the Irish Navy into a component part of a common European defence strategy.  EU Foreign Affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, shamelessly described the strategy as vital if the EU was to reach its ‘full potential as a super power in the field of security and defence.’ 

Against a background of EU military expansionism and an integration of our defence forces in a developing EU military force, Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin’s passivity also has been extraordinary, if not pathetic. 

He seems indifferent to the fact that Varadkar is determined to purchase an overpriced instrument of war that the government says will be the Irish Navy’s new flagship. 

But for what purpose?

And, just as Varadkar urgently needs to explain why Ireland is participating in resurgent European militarism, so too must Martin justify his own tacit support for an accelerating involvement by Ireland in international military operations.

And it was hardly unrelated that on the two occasions Sinn Féin attempted to enshrine Ireland’s neutrality in the Constitution, FF and FG combined to thwart their efforts.


A political swindle?

It’s all a far cry from the Fishery Protection Service’s original role: to protect Irish maritime assets and to frighten the wits out of poor Pedro whenever he was caught snatching the odd hake. 

Back then people understood the Irish Navy’s function. 

They don’t now; and they certainly can’t get their heads around Fine Gael’s bombastic military ambitions, as evidenced by the planned construction of a €200m war vessel. 

Does FG really believe it’s all for a humanitarian cause when, in fact, such an assertion has the signs of a political swindle?

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