Department disputes defence lobbyist account of meeting with Simon Coveney

During his time as defence minister Simon Coveney met with defence lobbyists – who’d previously talked with him about the sale of Irish military tech to the US – but didn’t record what was discussed during the encounter.

Though the Irish Defence and Security Association (IDSA) made the correct returns for the October 2022 meeting on the lobbying register, a Department of Defence spokesperson told The Ditch that no meeting was held.

Coveney had met with the group earlier that year when IDSA discussed with him funding for European Defence Fund projects, as well as the promotion of Irish “dual use” tech – products with both military and civilian uses.

IDSA is an umbrella lobbying group of both Irish SMEs and multinational corporations. It hasn’t publicly disclosed the identities of these companies.

‘No meeting took place’

Simon Coveney and Department of Defence secretary general Jacqui McCrum met with lobbyists from the Irish Defence and Security Association while attending a networking event.

Held in the Aviva stadium, the event aimed to explore opportunities in “dual technologies”.

IDSA filed a return on the lobbying register to acknowledge the meeting, as well as a dinner with independent TD Cathal Berry, which the group said were held “to promote the Irish defence and security sector”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defence however denied the meeting took place.

“Minister Coveney gave a keynote address and attended the event for an hour. While the Irish Defence and Security Association may have attended the conference, no meeting was held,” they said.

IDSA’s website says it represents “Irish or Irish-based SMEs, research organisations and multinational corporations who share concerns about Ireland’s vulnerability”. According to IDSA all these groups “share optimism” that this vulnerability “be turned around to the benefit of Ireland, our society and our economy”.

Among the policy positions advocated by IDSA are increases in Irish defence procurement and the promotion of Irish dual use goods to third countries, particularly the US.

When asked by The Ditch whether it intends to publicly disclose who its members are, IDSA replied that it represents “15 Irish SMEs, two Irish third-level research institutions and two international companies”.

The meeting in the Aviva stadium was not the first time IDSA has engaged with the Department of Defence. The group wrote to the government shortly after another fundraising event in the department in November 2021 requesting a meeting with Coveney and the secretary general of the armed forces, records show.

Coveney then met with ISDA chair Pat O’Connor and policy lead Caitríona Heinl on April 11. His department did keep records for this meeting.

A briefing document released to The Ditch under freedom of information shows that IDSA wished to discuss potential partnerships with military aircraft manufacturers such as Saab, specialised loans for Irish companies producing defence products and the co-funding of European Defence Fund projects.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors