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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] I am very proud of the engagements and the competence of those engagements. I do not want to upset the Deputy but I do not know why people are hung up about NATO. The Cold War was over a long time ago and NATO is effectively a regional organisation that has a substantial role and is recognised by the UN as one of the regional organisations that takes a lead role in peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions, as does its equivalent in the African states and the European Union as an entity. There is an important role to be played in the area.

I do not know if we will participate in the mission because I am waiting for feedback from our defence organisation looking at a range of skills that the UN requested to be incorporated and provided by personnel in the mission. This is an enormously troubled part of the world. The French deserve praise for the speed with which they intervened in circumstances of horrendous atrocities being perpetrated by fundamentalists and al-Qaeda groups in northern Mali. These posed a serious threat to the whole of the country and without the French intervention those groups would have spread further. There are issues with the Malian army because there have been substantial human rights violations by the groups that took over northern Mali and human rights violations by the official Malian forces. These are the subject of investigation at the moment and there is an important role to play to ensure the restructuring of the civil government structure in Mali takes place and that elections take place so that a Government can be democratically elected in July. It is important that there are forces to back the civil power that are competent, are disciplined and trained and do not engage in human rights abuses.

The additional issue in the context of the UN mission is maintaining peace in a troubled area. Even with the engagement of the French, there has been a number of incidents in northern Mali in recent weeks. The conflict will not disappear overnight. We have an international duty to the civilian population to provide it with the protection it requires in a troubled area and a poor country. It needs a great deal more help than simply military help but we should not have turned our backs on the difficulties of the country and the ordinary people in it and, given that this is a European security issue, ignored the difficulties posed to Europe in the medium term had a fundamentalist group entirely taken over Mali, conducted itself in gross violation of the human rights of the population of Mali, planted itself in the country and posed a threat to other countries in the region and to Europe.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Northern Africa has a colonial history and was carved up by a number of countries, most notably Britain, France and Spain. It is a tragic history of the pillage of natural resources, genocide and oppression over many decades. That is the context of engagement in north Africa. France was very slow out of the blocks in Tunisia when the people had their uprising and removed the dictator Ben Ali. The French went into Libya but there was major criticism of NATO's interpretation of the UN Security Council resolution and devastating consequences in the country. We are all glad to see the back of Gaddafi but the question is whether it could have been managed better. That is the context in which we move into Mali.

It is disappointing we did not have a proper debate in the House because fewer than 12 of our Defence Forces were deployed, meaning there is no proper scrutiny of the decision over a period of time. The Minister acknowledges the Malian army is responsible for numerous reported human rights abuses, followed up by the UN, Human Rights Watch and other human rights NGOs. There are serious concerns.

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