French military exercise to take place off Irish coast tonight

Fishermen are calling for the Government to intervene
French military exercise to take place off Irish coast tonight

Updated 5.30pm

A French military exercise planned off the Irish coast has been brought forward to tonight.

An updated marine notice from the Department of Transport indicates the exercise, involving missile and rocket firing, will get under way at 2am.

It is due to take place for 14 hours daily up to Friday, and will also be held again next Monday.

The exercise will take place off the southern coast, outside Irish territorial waters, but within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone, which is patrolled by the Irish Naval Service.

In a statement this evening, the French Embassy in Ireland said the exercise will take place in an area off the French coast which "may potentially include a small piece of the southern extremity of Ireland’s EEZ as a security pattern, approximatively 200km southwest of Ireland territorial waters."

"No French Navy vessels will be in the Irish EEZ during this exercise," the statement added.

"As a close EU partner, France will maintain close contact with the Irish authorities throughout the period of the military exercise."

Fishermen protest

It comes after fishermen from the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation at the weekend said they were “formulating a plan of action” to prevent “potential catastrophic environmental damage” from the exercise.

Chief executive Patrick Murphy on Monday called for the Government to intervene.

"Where's our sovereignty? Where [are] the people that are meant to represent us, to stand up for us? Like what happened the last time - where are they gone this time?" he told Newstalk radio.

"At least the last time, our Minister for Foreign Affairs came out publicly and he said he couldn't do anything about it, but at least he said they weren't welcome.

"So is it the flag [that] isn't welcome or is it the actual military exercises [that] aren't welcome? These questions have to be answered because this is going to continue."

It follows controversy earlier this year when the Russian navy announced it would carry out similar exercises in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone.

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