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Overseas Missions (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter]   Through the United Nations stand-by arrangements system Ireland has offered to provide up to 850 military personnel for overseas service at any one time, which demonstrates our commitment to the cause of international peace. This continues to be the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas peacekeeping operations. Ireland is currently contributing 438 Defence Forces personnel to 11 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the tabular statement provided.

  Ireland's main deployment is in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, with 361 personnel, with smaller contributions in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and the European Union training mission, EUTM, in Somalia. Ireland is also currently participating in the Austro-German-led battlegroup, which is on stand-by until 31 December 2012.

  The question referred to the future deployment of the Defence Forces overseas. Ireland receives requests from time to time relating to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. When considering any particular request, the existence of realistic objectives and a clear mandate which has the potential to contribute to a political solution, consideration of how the mission relates to the priorities of Irish foreign policy and the degree of risk involved are among the factors considered. Ireland received an invitation from the operational commander of Operation Atalanta of the European Union Naval Force Somalia, EU NAVFOR, to contribute an autonomous vessel protection detachment, AVPD, to the operation. Currently, EU NAVFOR has received offers from five member states to provide such a detachment. As a result, the requirement for additional AVPDs does not arise in the immediate future and no vacancies will exist within the mission for such detachments until August 2013. Consideration may be given closer to the time with regard to whether Ireland will contribute after August 2013. We have also received an invitation from the UN requesting the deployment of a specialist training team on conventional munitions disposal, CMD, and mine and specialist search awareness to support the work of the United Nations mine action service in South Sudan. The request is currently under consideration. The Department of Defence constantly reviews the deployment of Defence Forces personnel overseas. At this time, it is not anticipated that there will be any major additional deployment of troops to further missions in 2013.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as at 1st December 2012

1 UN missions  
(i) UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

UNIFIL 107th Infantry Battalion

UNIFIL Sector West HQ


(ii) UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) – Israel, Syria and Lebanon
(iii) MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)
(iv) MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
(v) UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)
  UN-mandated missions  
(vi) EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)
(vii) EUTM Somalia (EU-led Training Mission in Uganda)
(viii) KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) – HQ
(ix) ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)
2 Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)  
(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina 2
(ii) OSCE Mission in Belgrade - Serbia 1
(iii) Head of High Level Planning Group, Vienna 1
(iv) Staff Officer, High Level Planning Group, Vienna
3 EU Military Staff  
4 Austro-German Battlegroup  
  Ulm, Germany
5 Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff  
(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York
(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna
(iii) Staff Appointments, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna
(iv) Military Representative to EU (Brussels)
(v) Liaison Office of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels)
(vi) EU OHQ Operation Althea, Mons, Belgium

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Minister for his response on this matter. We should never fail to avail of the opportunity at such times to acknowledge the value of the service that our Defence Forces have provided in a variety of countries overseas. Time and again they have distinguished themselves in the service they have given in the cause of peace. Some of them have sacrificed their lives. In general, when we reflect on our Defence Forces, we think first and foremost of the distinguished overseas service that has been given over many years. We should never lose the opportunity of highlighting the importance of that. For young people who are considering a career in the Defence Forces, one of the attractive aspects is the type of service that they are in a position to give in parts of the world where our Defence Forces are deployed from time to time.

I am mindful of the fact that over the years people in the Minister's party have had various comments to make about the triple lock system. What is the Minister's current thinking on the triple lock, with particular reference to our participation in the EU battle groups? Let us speculate on a scenario whereby some fellow members of these battle groups express an interest in participating in a particular mission that might not have the approval of the United Nations. What strategic approach would the Minister for Defence adopt to that issue? Does the Minister envisage bringing proposals before the House on the triple lock? This issue has concerned some Fine Gael Members in the past.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I commend the Deputy on researching some of the views expressed by members of the Fine Gael party. At least they have views on issues of importance and we debate and consider them.

The debate on the Green Paper will give us a useful opportunity to discuss our position in dealing with peacekeeping and peace enforcement; to discuss the benefits of the triple lock and whether there are any detrimental problems or difficulties that arise around it; to discuss the relevance of all of these issues to the new security environment in which we find ourselves; and to discuss the relevance of what we perceive to be appropriate defence policy in a world where conventional armies do not pose any major threats at present to this country, but where terrorism does pose a threat to other EU member states and where we continue to have our domestic home-grown terrorists who pose a threat in the State. There is a range of interesting issues to be discussed and openly debated.

The triple lock has played an important role in ensuring that when we deploy our Defence Forces abroad we do so for peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions that have been given a UN mandate. We have played an important role in missions because our history and background is such that we have no colonial past. In the eyes of many countries in troubled regions of the world, although we were colonised, we do not have a past of colonising others. This gives our troops a particular perspective, whether they are located, as they were for some time, in Chad or in the Lebanon. Often the local communities in these areas have a different perspective towards Irish troops compared to others. We find that our troops can build up engagements and relationships on these missions that sometimes prove more problematic to others.

The UN mandate has an important role in all of this. The Green Paper will afford an opportunity for Members of all parties and none to consider and debate these issues. I do not believe we should take for granted that in the future we will do everything we have done in the past. We need to look at where the world is now, our place in the world, the role we play, what is relevant to Ireland in a defence context as a state and what role Ireland should play as a member state of the European Union. These are all interesting issues and I have no doubt we will have all sorts of interesting debates and exchanges on them during 2013.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I have two brief questions for the Minister. There is a request in at the moment for a trip to South Sudan, which is currently being evaluated. Will the Minister provide some more information about the number of personnel who may be involved? This allows me to come back in on a question I have raised in the past - that is, the use of Lariam. We tabled a question which was disallowed today because of the suspension of a Member. Will the Minister give his position on that request?

I noted the Minister's comments on the triple lock. I have raised this issue in the past as spokesperson on this portfolio. I am somewhat concerned about the Minister's answer. Up to six months ago the Minister said that the triple lock was a valuable aspect of how we did our business and that he could not foresee any changes to it. I note he did not say that today. He is now saying that as part of the Green Paper we should consider our role within global affairs and whether there are unintended consequences of having the triple lock in place. This does not instill me with great confidence that there are no plans to get rid of that mechanism. Will the Minister clarify the position? If it is the case that the Minister's position is the same as it was six months ago and he cannot foresee any circumstances in which we would not have a triple lock mechanism in place, then it should probably be clarified here today. Anyone listening to the debate would have picked up the impression that it is possibly up for review as part of the Green Paper.

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