Martin's department set up meeting of pro-military spending group and EDA – but won’t reveal who went

Micheál Martin’s Department of Defence arranged a meeting between an Irish pro-military spending group and the European Defence Agency – and now refuses to say who attended. 

The Irish Defence and Security Association (IDSA), a group that wants Ireland to develop “leading edge and trusted defence and security capabilities”, met with EDA chief executive Jiří Šedivý.

The meeting was set up after the group liaised with the Department of Defence in the weeks running up to Šedivý's September 2023 visit to Ireland, according to correspondence released to The Ditch under freedom of information.

Little is known about IDSA, which is directed by UCD professor Ben Tonra, managing director of VRAI Pat O’Connor, and executive director at The Azure Forum for Contemporary Security Strategy Caitríona Heinl. Though the Department of Defence facilitated a meeting for the group with the EDA, it now refuses to identify members of the group who attended the meeting.

The department argued to The Ditch that its redactions are “personal information” and "information obtained in confidence", the release of which would not be in the public interest. IDSA has previously met with Simon Coveney to discuss the sale of military tech to the US, as reported by The Ditch


The Department of Defence was in contact with the Irish Defence and Security Association while arranging an itinerary for European Defence Agency chief executive Jiří Šedivý during his trip to Ireland last year. 

The EDA promotes what it calls “defence cooperation” between EU members under the bloc’s Common Security and Defence Policy. IDSA, according to its website, represents companies, research groups and corporations that want Ireland to increase its defence spending and promote Irish dual-use goods abroad. 

After the Department of Defence requested that the EDA chief executive meet with IDSA, the EDA confirmed the meeting. 

“Could the chief executive meet the director or a high-level representative?” wrote the EDA’s policy officer Giuditta Morandi to the department on 4 September.

On 21 September, IDSA’s unnamed operations manager wrote to Philip Mudge of the Department of Defence, informing him who intended to attend the meeting with Šedivý, having previously discussed the matter.

The Department of Defence refused to release the names of the IDSA member with whom it corresponded or the names of the people who attended the meeting. “It was clear the records contained personal information,” a department staff member told The Ditch. 

The meeting itself took place 27 September, 2023, with a briefing note for Micheál Martin instructing him to tell Šedivý, “I also understand that you met with the Irish Defence and Security Association this afternoon.” 

The department, for some reason, attempted to redact this sentence in the briefing note but failed to do so properly. 

A spokesperson for IDSA told The Ditch that IDSA received an invitation from the EDA, communicated via the Department of Defence, to meet their CEO during his visit to Dublin last year. 

“The IDSA accepted that invitation and shared the perspective of the association with Mr. Šedivý on the topics of defence and security capability development in Ireland specifically and Europe generally,” they said.

Last year The Ditch reported that in October 2022 IDSA met with then defence minister Simon Coveney to promote the Irish defence and security sector, filing a lobbying return outlining the encounter. Coveney denied the meeting ever took place. 

Prior to the visit by the EDA Chief Executive (EDA CE) to Ireland in September 2023, the Department was asked by the EDA to facilitate a meeting between the EDA Chief Executive and Irish industry. The Department passed this request to the Irish Defence and Security Association.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said, “The department’s position in relation to attendance at the meeting is as outlined in the recent FOl request on the matter. The details of the discussions are a matter for the EDA and IDSA.”

The EDA declined to comment.

Paulie Doyle

Paulie Doyle