Why is Britain allowed to scramble RAF fighter jets in Ireland’s airspace, asks Irish senator

Why is Britain allowed to scramble RAF fighter jets in Ireland’s airspace, asks Irish senator

AN INDEPENDENT Senator has questioned the Irish Government about permission being granted to Britain to scramble fighter jets in Ireland’s airspace.

Senator Gerard Craughwell told the Seanad yesterday that allowing Royal Air Force fighter jets access to Irish airspace interferes with Ireland’s sovereignty.

Senator Craughwell (Picture: gerardcraughwell.ie)

Mr Craughwell was referencing a bilateral agreement between Ireland’s Department of Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) with British counterparts: the RAF, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Defence, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

That agreement permits the RAF to conduct operations over Ireland in the event of a terrorist incident, real or suspected.

“Imagine my shock at the weekend when I discovered that an agreement had been signed between this country and the United Kingdom granting permission to the United Kingdom to scramble fighter jets in Irish airspace,” Mr Craughwell told the Seanad.

“The agreement was signed before either this or the last Government came to power.

“I can find no evidence anywhere of Oireachtas oversight of the agreement or of a ministerial signature on it.”

Mr Craughwell said that the agreement between the Irish and British authorities went against Ireland’s sovereignty.

“It creates a merger or a partnership in respect of our sovereignty,” he said. “We talk about our sovereignty all the time, yet we are allowing jets of the Royal Air Force to fly over the country.’’

As recently as February, RAF typhoons intercepted two Russian Blackjack bombers that entered the UK's “area of interest” – as opposed to sovereign airspace – flying down the west coast of Ireland and over the Bay of Biscay.

The Irish Aviation Authority said in a statement that RAF jets had intercepted the Russian aircraft as they transitted “Irish controlled airspace” 256 nautical miles off the west coast of Ireland.