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Defence Forces Operations (Continued)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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  3 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter] Ireland took over operational command of the mission in August 2011, with the appointment of Colonel Michael Beary of the Defence Forces as mission commander, and deployed additional staff to support the role of mission commander. Brigadier General Gerald Aherne succeeded Colonel Beary and took up the appointment of mission commander on 1 February 2013. At the end of last month Brigadier General Gerald Aherne handed over command of the mission to his successor, Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi of Italy, who attended the recent meeting of EU defence Ministers to brief us on the mission.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brigadier General Beary and Brigadier General Aherne for their outstanding contribution to the success of the mission and to wish the new force commander well. Ireland currently has six personnel serving with the mission, which reduces from 11 the numbers we have there, because the remaining personnel would have supported the mission commander when our Defence Forces had command of the mission.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The recent reduction in the number of Defence Forces personnel deployed to EUTM Somalia from 11 to six was as a result of the drawdown of Defence Forces personnel associated with Ireland's having held the post of Mission Commander and also completion of the training phase of the mission, to which Ireland contributed three personnel. Given Ireland’s commitment to this mission to date, and in order to support a smooth transition between mission commanders, Government approval has been granted to retain the Defence Forces personnel in their current appointments until the end of their respective individual six-month tours of duty.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I join the Minister in paying tribute to Brigadiers Aherne and Beary for their work on this important mission. Am I right in saying the Minister has decided our forces will withdraw from this mission soon? I was surprised to hear that, given the value of the work and that there is still a desperate need in Somalia for the stabilisation work and training of the armed forces in which our forces have been involved. Why did the Minister decide to disengage from the initiative? I know there were some safety concerns, but I am conscious that we are still present in Afghanistan, where there are many challenges. The Minister has a personal interest in Mali, and many others in the House are interested in it, where the situation is also quite challenging. Why disengage from Somalia?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The mission has changed significantly since locating in Mogadishu, having initially been in Uganda. We are engaged in 14 overseas missions, including EUTM Somalia, and given Ireland's commitment to this mission to date in order to support the smooth handover between mission commanders, we granted approval to retain the Defence Forces personnel in their current appointments until the end of their tour of duty on 13 April 2014. The decision was made to end our engagement in the mission. Very few members of our Defence Forces participate it. As the term of our engagement in missions draws to a close, a review is always conducted to ascertain whether we should deploy some additional personnel or give consideration to other missions. The decision was made that it was appropriate to withdraw the small number of personnel in this location, having made a substantial contribution to it with two outstanding members of our Defence Forces as force commanders. The Deputy can assume we continue to focus on the varied missions we are engaged in and there is no question of our disengaging in any dramatic way from our overall UN commitments.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I agree with the Minister that our commitment to the UN missions is of major importance and I appreciate our ongoing commitment. None the less, the situation in Somalia continues to be very serious. The small group of personnel made a valuable contribution and there is a continuing need to be engaged there. When considering this question I was conscious of the Government's Africa strategy and the Tánaiste's commitment to it and to peace, security, disarmament and respect for human rights, which our people in Somalia were working on.

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