Pro militarisation group lobbying government on defence issues won’t disclose its members

A pro-militarisation group lobbying government to allow Irish companies greater access to the international arms market has declined to publicly disclose its members.

The Irish Defence and Security Association (IDSA) lobbied the government nine times since it was founded in September 2021, most recently in late 2023, according to its latest lobbying return.  

The Ditch has repeatedly asked IDSA to disclose who its members are – but the organisation has declined each time.

‘The very best international partners’

The Irish Defence and Security Association was established in September 2021 by former Irish soldier Pat O’Connor, UCD professor Ben Tonra and executive director at the Azure Forum for Contemporary Security Strategy Caitríona Heinl.

It’s met with senior officials from the Department of Defence, independent TD and former soldier Cathal Berry and then minister for defence Simon Coveney.  

It has repeatedly refused to identify its members. No information about IDSA’s shareholders appears online. 

When asked to reveal its members and explain why it requested several redactions in a recent freedom of information request made by The Ditch, an unnamed operations manager for IDSA said it doesn’t comment on the activities of private companies and that access to third party information is legally restricted. 

“Information about who are members of the IDSA is available in the public domain,” they said. “As I am sure you are aware, access to third parties’ personal information is subject to restrictions under freedom of information legislation and is generally prohibited under data protection legislation.”            

Last week a spokesperson for IDSA told The Ditch that its members consist of “SMEs, research organisations and the very best international partners who share concerns about Ireland's vulnerability”, but didn’t give further details. 

Some organisations have previously announced their membership of IDSA. This includes Belfast-based Kinsetsu, which provides technology to the Royal Navy, among other clients. 

Another is VRAI, of which IDSA director O’Connor is managing director. The company makes  virtual reality training programmes for military personnel and in 2022 announced a partnership with BAE Systems, which has been accused by human rights groups of being party to war crimes.

A-Techsyn LTD, which provides “solutions” for unmanned aviation systems, is also a member.  

On Tuesday The Ditch reported that the Department of Defence had arranged for IDSA to meet with EDA chief executive Jiří Šedivý during his visit to Dublin in September 2022.

The Department of Defence earlier this week confirmed that IDSA requested the department redact the names of who attended the event, after a freedom of information request from The Ditch about the meeting. 

Last year the Department of Defence denied that a meeting it held with IDSA in 2022 took place during an event promoting Irish dual use goods – despite IDSA filing a lobbying return outlining what had been discussed. 

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors