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 Header Item EU Battlegroups (Continued)
 Header Item White Paper on Defence

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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  3 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter] We view our participation as being beneficial to the Defence Forces with regard to training and interoperability issues but also as signifying in a European Union context that we are willing to come together with other member states to deal with peacekeeping, peace enforcement and rescue missions. It is important we are seen to make a contribution in this area and that is the Government's perspective on this.

The Deputy might be interested to know that at European level a dialogue has commenced to examine the utility of the battle group concept. Rather than an entire battle group being deployed on a peacekeeping mission on some occasion under a United Nations mandate should some issue arise, Europe could beneficially participate by deploying a portion of a battle group with particular skills. That might be worth considering for the future, as opposed to battle groups being in place, which fortuitously to date have not been called upon, and they having a certain level of training but not being utilised in a manner that could be beneficial in peacekeeping or peace enforcement missions.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Will that be a priority issue for the Minister as he chairs the Council of Ministers for Defence in the next six month period? In that regard, are there any other gems of wisdom he might give us in terms of his priorities in his role during the next six months?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter We have a number of priorities dealing with the European Council meetings that will take place. As the Deputy may already know, an informal Council meeting will take place in Dublin, based at Dublin Castle, on 12 and 13 February at which a variety of issues will be under discussion. One of the issues of importance as we go through our Presidency is preparation for the European Council meeting of Heads of State in December 2013 when they address issues of European security and defence. An issue of particular relevance and importance is the manner in which UN missions are currently deployed and mandated. The role of the European Union as a regional entity in providing what I would describe as a European Union based deployed mission under a UN mandate is something that is very important.

As the Deputy will know, 21 member states of the Union are members of NATO and the other members states are not members of it. Some of the deployments have had a NATO dimension as opposed to a European Union dimension. We specifically invited, as I thought it would be of importance and interest, someone at high level in the UN to address the informal meeting on the greater connectivity between the UN and the EU as an entity in peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions. That is an area with which we will be dealing at the informal Defence Council meeting. There is a broad range of other issues to which some level of priority needs to be given such as pooling and sharing between the different member states where we may have joint missions with member states under a UN mandate.

If the Deputy puts down a question, I would be happy to go through all the various issues we anticipate will come up. The very important issue is the operations in which we are engaged in conjunction with EU colleagues. For example, EUTM Somalia, which is headed up by a member of our Defence Forces, provides training for new members of the Somalian defence forces. That training is currently taking place in Uganda but it is envisaged the mission will go to Mogadishu shortly. That is one of a number of issues that will be discussed during the course of our Presidency.

White Paper on Defence

 7. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter when the White Paper on the Defence Forces will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54646/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The White Paper published in 2000 has provided, as the Deputy is aware, the framework within which the defence organisation has responded to the significant changes in the defence and security environment. I am of the view that the preparation for the new White Paper on defence will benefit greatly from an informed and wide-ranging debate on Ireland’s defence policy. To that end and having considered the preliminary work undertaken on the new White Paper, I decided to initiate the preparation of a Green Paper on defence. The purpose of the Green Paper will be to elicit and stimulate the policy debate and discussion.

I expect a draft Green Paper will be submitted to me for consideration shortly. I will subsequently bring a memorandum to Government, early in 2013, seeking formal approval to publish the Green Paper and to initiate the consultation process to inform the White Paper. The new White Paper on defence is scheduled for completion at the end of 2013.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I thank the Minister for his reply. Some 12 or 13 years will have elapsed from the publication of the last White Paper on Defence to the publication of the new White Paper and yet in the past 12 months significant changes have taken place in the Defence Forces. There has been a move from a three-group to a two-group brigade structure, the abolition of the command at Custume Barracks in Athlone and a restructuring of the Reserve Defence Forces. In tandem with those changes a significantly increased threat has been posed by dissident republicans on both sides of the Border and they have been engaged in far greater activity. In that context, does the Minister believe we need to reconsider the restructuring of the Defence Forces and the objectives and goals for our security forces?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I would not give respectability to the groups the Deputy mentioned by referring to them as dissident republicans: they are primarily criminal terrorists who have no respect of any description for the democratic will of people on both sides of this island to bring an end to violence, mayhem and destruction. They are individuals who, while waving a green flag, are deeply involved in criminality in the area of drugs, fuel laundering and extortion and are hell bent on causing death and mayhem if possible. In that context, I want to pay tribute to both the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces for the work they do in providing a safe community on this side of the island and to the Garda Síochána and the PSNI for the full co-operation that exists between both bodies in seeking to prevent incidents and also in investigating events that occurred such as the most recent tragic death of a prison officer in Northern Ireland.

The reorganisation of the Defence Forces was designed to ensure that we have the practical necessary numbers in the Defence Forces to deal with issues that arise such as issues of subversion in so far as the Defence Forces are engaged in that area and also to facilitate their engagement in their international duties. The reorganisation was also designed to ensure that we use resources wisely. Both the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána have the capability to continue to co-operate fully and work with each other to ensure that what is necessary is done to counteract the threat of the criminal terrorists who remain on this island.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Deputy Eoghan Murphy has signalled he wishes to ask a question and following him I will call Deputy Naughten.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy In the preparation of the White Paper will the Minister consult other governments to share analysis or to learn of their thinking in terms of the preparation of white papers? Currently, the French Government is drafting a new White Paper. I had the opportunity to visit French Ministry for Defence recently and some of the thinking and work they are putting into the process is very interesting and we could learn from that. Also, it is important to know what our partners in Europe are thinking in terms of European co-operation in security and defence. Will that be an element in the White Paper when it is produced?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I thank the Deputy for his question. There will be widespread consultation following the publication of the Green Paper. I am very conscious that when the last White Paper was published it had very important content and it has stood the test of time, in fairness to those who published it, but it appeared a little like a rabbit out of a hat without the level of consultation that I believe should take place, which is why I decided to publish a Green Paper. It will pose a variety of questions and address a number of issues with a view to stimulating domestic debate and also place Ireland in the context in which we now find ourselves within the European Union where there has been substantial treaty changes. There is a very different environment with regard to European security and defence issues. We live in a different environment with regard to the level of international terrorism with which we are now confronted. Sometimes people forget that our White Paper was published prior to the 11 September atrocities, the London bombings and the treats posed by Muslim fundamentalists in various parts of Europe.

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