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Defence Forces UN Missions (Continued)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter] The Defence Forces training team will train two platoons of Malian personnel during its tour of duty and is due to rotate in early September.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We welcome the relative progress achieved in Mali, particularly northern Mali, in recent times. We pay tribute to the French and the approximately 6,000 African-led troops who have been involved in the initiatives. Will the Minister inform the House whether he himself is in favour of sending Irish troops to Mali and indicate if approximately 400 soldiers is the number in question? Will he indicate when he will bring formal proposals to the Cabinet on the matter?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Like Deputy Finian McGrath, Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl gives a little too much credence to the nonsense he reads in Phoenix. There has been no decision about numbers of troops. I dealt with this issue at some length. There is a United Nations proposal for a mission. As I indicated in my earlier reply, we are considering technical areas in which we can provide personnel. The matter is being assessed within the Defence Forces and no decision of any description has been made as to whether we will participate in the mission.

  My personal view is that the mission is important. If we can help to bring stability and peace to the area, we should make a positive contribution. I await recommendations from within the Defence Forces as to whether there are areas within which we can assist the mission and whether we should provide personnel. I have no idea from where the figure of 400 might have come other than the brain of some journalist who felt the need to fill space in a particular periodical. I always find it interesting when people write authoritatively that definitive decisions have been made on matters I am dealing with when no decision of any description has yet been made.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan I note that the Minister is at least an avid reader of Phoenix.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter It is something at which one can laugh with great regularity.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan Is the Minister stating he has received no formal request under MINUSMA and United Nations Resolution S/RES 2100? I missed the earlier reply.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Yes, that is what I said.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan I missed the reply to Deputy Mick Wallace. Can the Minister provide any indication of the number of troops he envisages becoming involved? He mentioned a figure of 22 and the training element. My understanding is that Mali may receive the third largest United Nations deployment in recent decades after the deployments to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur. It will, therefore, be a major operation.

People are aware of Mali's history and economic circumstances. It is one of the world's poorest countries. They are aware of its general society and the threat from at least some organisations with connections to al-Qaeda. Is the Minister concerned about the State becoming involved in the French post-colonial system in north Africa? As he knows, France has had a long-standing role in Francophone countries and often supported powerful dictatorships and regimes which oppressed their own peoples. Does the Minister have concerns that Ireland could become implicated in this regard? He mentioned Partnership for Peace. It is fair to say, notwithstanding earlier comments, that people have concerns about this country being involved in NATO missions.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter This country will not become involved in anyone's adventures anywhere. We do not get involved in adventures. We have a tradition of which we should be proud in the House and which we should never misrepresent of having enormously competent Defence Forces which bring special skills to peacekeeping and which are widely recognised globally. We punch substantially above our weight to deploy small contingents in different parts of the world, often with individual members of the Defence Forces being placed in command of troops from a broad range of countries.


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