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Backdoor Threat: Northern Ireland's Security and External Actors



A recent report by think tank Policy Exchange has raised alarms about the potential use of Ireland as a "backdoor" by Russia, Iran, and China to threaten the United Kingdom's national security. The report underscores the need for the UK to recognize the strategic importance of Northern Ireland, particularly in the aftermath of the restoration of Stormont.

 

The authors of the report express concerns about the risks associated with Russia, Iran, and China utilizing the Republic of Ireland as a gateway to the UK. They argue that the threat is exacerbated by the Republic's perceived reluctance to invest adequately in its military and security infrastructure, potentially leaving vulnerabilities that could be exploited by external actors.

 

The expansion of Russian, Chinese, and Iranian presences in the Republic of Ireland is highlighted as a signal of intent to infiltrate and interfere with the transatlantic community. The report emphasizes the importance of the UK restoring its active naval and air presence on the western side of the Irish Sea to counteract external threats effectively.

 

Defence Secretaries Sir Michael Fallon and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, in a foreword to the report, welcome the research for its role in "powerfully reasserting the strategic importance of Ireland, and especially Northern Ireland, to the UK's national security." They point out instances of Russian intelligence ships and warships being identified off the Irish coast and near key transatlantic cables, emphasizing the growing threat posed by Russia, Iran, and China in the Republic.

 

Marcus Solarz Hendriks, the author of the Policy Exchange report, underscores the need for the UK to take action in policing its northwestern waters, particularly as Russia probes the vulnerability of transatlantic maritime infrastructure. He calls for a fundamental change in the nature of Northern Irish security arrangements to signal the UK's commitment to collective security.

 

The recent historic moment at Stormont, where Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill became the first republican First Minister, adds a layer of complexity to the security landscape. O'Neill anticipates a referendum on Irish unity within the next 10 years, emphasizing the changing dynamics in the region.

 

As geopolitical tensions rise, a proactive approach to security measures, both within Northern Ireland and in collaboration with the Republic, becomes essential to safeguarding national interests. The UK government must carefully consider the implications outlined in the report and take strategic steps to secure its northwestern borders against emerging threats.

 

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