Established in 2019, the Azure Forum is a British foreign policy think-tank based in Ireland. Largely flying under the public’s radar, the Azure Forum has been active in foreign policy debates in the media and pro-Atlanticist media circles.
Protecting National Security Debates from “Nefarious Actors.”
Though the organisation’s name, cheesily derived from Ireland’s national colours, St. Patrick’s blue and saffron, the Azure Forum has far less than saintly designs in mind for Ireland’s future.
Waxing lyrical about Ireland’s position as a small nation on their website, the Azure Forum believes that “Ireland has a unique global brand as a smaller even-handed nation with balanced foreign policy approaches and strong moral or soft power.”
Its stated aims are the cultivation of Ireland’s global reputation and to fill the gap in defence and security think tanks in Ireland, and to ensure that conversations around national security are managed in such a way that Irish foreign policy discussions are not subject to the “misinformed or even dominated by nefarious actors.”
Who these nefarious actors are, the Azure Forum does not specify, but we suspect they might include those who are opposed to British and American geopolitical dominance, especially so given the light of the backgrounds of the Forum’s members.
The Azure Forum’s virtue signalling towards Ireland’s history as a small and independent, and most importantly, globally-minded, country, is naught but insincere performance, only employed for the sake of obscuring its member’s duplicitous intentions under the guise of benign lobbying.
The organisation appears to have ample networks with Ireland’s professional university and security sectors, which have climaxed in the group being granted speaking time at the government’s forum on Irish neutrality and security.
Meet the Committee:
Knowing that the Azure Forum is intent on aligning Ireland with Atlanticist interests, it is important that the Irish public are aware of the people who comprise senior and analytical positions within the organisation.
Following President Michael D. Higgins’ criticism of the government’s controversial neutrality and international security forum, Professor at UCD Edward Burke has sought to slate the notion that the neutrality review committee is stacked in favour of NATO.
As previously reported by The Burkean, at least 61 people attending the event are explicitly Pro-NATO or have direct connections to Anglo-American policy interest groups. Out of the 79 people scheduled to attend the neutrality forum, only 1 individual, Roger Cole from the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, is openly supportive of Irish neutrality.
Burke himself, a member of the Azure Forum, has previously written a book, titled “Army of Tribes: British Army Cohesion, Deviancy and Murder in Northern Ireland”, on the topic of the British Army’s experiences in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s.
Paddy McGuinness, one of the two members of the organisation’s advisory council currently sits on the advisory committee of the UK’s reinsurance pool for Terrorism risk, PoolRe, an organisation established in the wake of the IRA’s London bombing campaign in 1993.
However, most concerningly is that from 2014 – 2018, Paddy served as Britain’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Intelligence, Security and Resilience, where he advised two British Prime Ministers on British Homeland Security as well as Government Security policy, largely related to cybersecurity.
The second member of the Azure Forum’s advisory council is Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, who previously served in the Irish Defence Forces, and has a record of cooperating with NATO/ISAF forces in Afghanistan. However, within the Defence Forces, Mellett has been a champion of diversity, leading the Defence Forces to introduce its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, searching to elevate the position of sexual, and ethnic minorities within the army.
Mellett previously celebrated the growing foreign national population in the Defence Forces, and has advocated for strong external connections to other militaries and state bodies. Perhaps NATO would be an example of such an external military organisation?
Caitríona Heinl, is Executive Director of the Azure Forum and a foreign affairs policy-making official who has received ample experience in the field of international relations in the EU and Asia. She will be present at the government’s international security review forum, and has previously spoken at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.
Further analysts involved with the Azure Forum include David J. Hickton, a former US district attorney for the Obama administration, and Mark Williams, an expert in online hate, extremism and disinformation. Williams has previously been involved in the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security, and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast, named after a former DNC leader allegedly involved in Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex ring and one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement.
Much public information is available regarding the organisation’s participants, but notably, the Azure Forum website does not list its trustees. For what reason could this be? Either the website is still a work-in-progress years after the Azure Forum was founded, or perhaps because the group’s trustees wish to remain unknown.
Reviewing the kinds of events that the Azure Forum has hosted and attended will give the reader a clearer understanding of the underlying malice in the institution’s vision for Ireland’s alignment with Anglo-American Atlanticist policy interests, as well as the extent to which Pro-NATO foreign policy pundits have networked with influential foreign officials and elites.
Starting with an event held last year, titled “Are Ireland’s views on neutrality and NATO changing?” This event was attended by Conor Gallagher, Irish Times journalist who recently published a book seeking to “debunk” the “myth” of Irish neutrality. Cathal Berry, an Independent TD supporting Irish militarisation, as well as Claire Cogan, the founder of BehaviourWise, a consultancy group responsible for the data provided in an Irish Times article which found that a majority of Irish people supported NATO membership.
At the MacGill Summer School, the Azure Forum co-hosted an event in which they questioned if neutrality is still an option for Ireland. This event was attended by Paddy McGuinness, Caitríona Heinl, Professor Brigid Laffan, and the Dutch Ambassador to Ireland Adriaan Palm. Also present at the event was Professor Andrew Cottey, who is also expected to be attending the government’s neutrality and security review forum, along with Laffan, and Heinl in their capacity as supporters of revising Ireland’s neutrality.
And as if an event questing Ireland’s neutrality was not indicative of the Azure Forum’s true foreign policy designs for Ireland, the group co-hosted another event in Dublin on the topic of EU-NATO collaboration, including Christian-Marc Lifländer, the head of NATO’s Cyber Defence Section.
The group is using Ireland’s position with internet cables falling into Ireland’s marine territory and the lack of Irish defence capabilities, as well as the large online tech corporate sector in Ireland through multinational companies in the country, they are seeking to bolster Ireland’s cybersecurity not for Ireland’s sake, but for the interest of Western Powers and US multinationals based in Ireland. Not only is the think tank against objective Irish interests to preserve its military and political neutrality, as indicated by the overwhelming connections between the group and NATO, but it does a pathetic job at pretending to hold Ireland’s interests at heart.