A Sinn Féin TD has said she is “deeply concerned” following reports that Russia is planning to test missiles in waters off the coast of Ireland next month.
Reports allege that the Government has received a warning of an exercise by the Russian navy and air force in the Atlantic off the southwest coast, in international Irish-patrolled waters.
Spokesperson on defence for her party, TD Sorca Clarke, said that successive Irish governments have failed to invest in an “over-stretched” Irish Defence Forces.
“I am deeply concerned that Russia is to conduct a missile test off the coast of Co Cork in the first week of February,” she said.
“Our own Defence Forces staffing levels have been impacted by reducing numbers over the last number of years and it is an area of concern repeatedly highlighted by representative bodies.
“Reports of Naval Service ships being anchored or running on skeleton crews due to severe understaffing are hugely worrying.
“International testing exercises, such as these latest reports from Russia, are placing increased pressure on our already over-stretched Defence Forces that successive governments have failed to invest in and support properly.”
Ms Clarke said that a lack of primary radar "is the reason other state entities have been probing our airspace for years with high-altitude bombers and escorts. These foreign aircraft can see us but we cannot see them."
Ireland is the only country on Europe’s west coast which lacks a primary radar system, meaning air traffic control can only see aircraft that want to be seen, namely those who have their transponders turned on.
“While the 2015 White Paper recognises that radar surveillance is a priority, there has been no meaningful action by government since then to deliver on it," Ms Clarke said.
"Our Naval Service is now understaffed and under-equipped with no capability to see below sea level and normal operation of units is an ongoing issue."