Other Questions - Overseas Missions.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 664 No. 4

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  14.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea   the extent to which further overseas deployments under the EU or UN flag are contemplated for members of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35014/08]

  38.  Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea   the number of Irish troops serving overseas; the location of same; the nature of their duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34983/08]

  44.  Deputy Seymour Crawford  Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea   the number of Army personnel based overseas; the locations of same; the number of personnel in each of those locations; if he is satisfied that all such activity can be justified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35128/08]

  177.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea   his plans for the future participation in EU or UN sponsored missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36428/08]

  178.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea   the position in regard to the deployment overseas of Defence Forces personnel; the degree to which Army, Naval Service [786]and Air Corps personnel are currently on such missions; the extent of such proposals in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36429/08]

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 38, 44, 177 and 178 together.

Ireland is currently contributing 746 Defence Forces personnel to 13 different missions throughout the world. Full details, including ranks, of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the following tabular statement. While personnel from all services are liable for overseas service and serve overseas, as a matter of policy, Air Corps and Naval Service assets are not deployed overseas.

The main overseas missions in which Defence Forces personnel are deployed are the UN mandated EU-multinational mission to Chad and the Central African Republic with 409 personnel, the NATO-led international security presence, KFOR, in Kosovo with 234 personnel and EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 44 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the UN, EU, OSCE and NATO.

The European Union military mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, established under the authority of United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1778, was formally launched by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 28 January 2008. A total of 409 Defence Forces personnel are currently serving with EUFOR — 18 at the operational headquarters in Paris and 391 in Chad, of whom 23 are at the force headquarters and 368 as part of the 98th Infantry Battalion. The headquarters of the 98th Infantry Battalion are located at Goz Beida in south east Chad. Ireland is the second largest contributor to the mission with 409 personnel. The aim of the mission is to protect civilians in danger, particularly refugees and internally displaced persons, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and protect UN personnel. The mandate of the EUFOR mission is due to expire on 15 March 2009. A United Nations “blue hat” mission is due to take over from the EU mission on that date.

KFOR was established in June 1999 to support the maintenance of civil law and order within Kosovo, so as to develop a climate of safety and security, which will enable the transfer of increased responsibility to the civil authorities. Ireland has participated in KFOR since August 1999. The Irish 39th Infantry group currently serves in the multinational task force centre. In addition to Ireland, the taskforce also comprises troops from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and Latvia. The Irish contribution to KFOR currently comprises an APC mounted infantry group of some 223 personnel and 11 personnel in staff posts at KFOR headquarters.

Ireland has participated in EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina since December 2004, the successor mission to the stabilisation force in Bosnia and Herzegovina with which Ireland had previously been serving since 1997. The Irish contingent with EUFOR currently comprises 44 personnel. The role of the Defence Forces personnel currently serving in EUFOR is to provide personnel for the headquarters, the military police unit, verification teams and the national support element. All Irish personnel are located at Camp Butmir, Sarajevo.

With regard to future deployments, Ireland occasionally receives requests for 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.

[787]Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of 1 October 2008

No.
1. UN Missions
(i) UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ 7
(ii) UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) — Israel, Syria and Lebanon 12
(iii) MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) 3
(iv) UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) 4
(v) MONUC (United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo) 3
(vi) UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast) 2
TOTAL 31
UN Mandated Missions
(vii) EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina) 44
(viii) EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) OHQ — Paris 18
EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) FHQ — Chad 23
EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) 97th Inf Battalion 368
(ix) KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) HQ 11
KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) 38th Inf Group 223
(x) ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) 7
Total number of personnel serving with UN missions 725
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) OSCE Mission in Skopje — Macedonia 1
(iv) Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna 1
Total number of personnel serving OSCE 5
3. EU Military Staff
Brussels 6
New York 1
4. Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff
(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York 1
(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna 1
(iii) Military Representatives to EU (Brussels) 4
(iv) Liaison Office of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels) 2
(v) Military Representative to NATO/PfP Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium 1
TOTAL NUMBER DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS: 746

Lt Gen Brig Gen Col Lt Col Comdt Capt Lt CF* Total Offr NCO Pte TOTAL
1 2 12 31 60 41 11 2 160 331 255 746

[788]Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The Irish deployment in Chad is part of a EUFOR mission, which will end on 15 March. Has the Minister considered making this a blue hat mission because it cost so much? A total of €20 million was expended because of the initial delay to the mission, the transportation of equipment and the putting in place of logistics. Is there a strong case for changing the EUFOR mission to a blue hat mission? Is it likely this will happen after March?

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  It is implicit in the Deputy’s question that a request will be made by the UN. However, we have been requested by the UN to contribute to the blue hat mission that will follow the EUFOR mission after 15 March. Before making a final decision, we must consider various issues such as the composition of the proposed mission, its mandate, which countries currently involved in Chad will remain with the UN mission and the important question of logistical support, about which the Deputy rightly has had a great deal to say. I take his point about the cost of the transfer of equipment. The Department has made a significant investment and I am favourably disposed to continuing the mission under the aegis of the UN but it will require a Government decision, which will, in turn, require Dáil approval. We will have the UN mandate and all the information we need by 15 December and, therefore, the decision will be made shortly thereafter. If we decide to contribute to the blue hat mission, that will be put before the House.

Deputy Brian O’Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  The Oireachtas has sanctioned payment for the mission in Chad. In the context of the Department’s Estimate, is it likely the mission will be extended next year when this round comes to an end?

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  As Deputy Deenihan pointed out, transporting the equipment overseas was a major factor in the cost of the mission. We have incurred that cost and it would be bad value for money to rush back on 15 March. The Exchequer is paying for this mission but when the UN takes over, it will carry the cost, by and large, although the organisation pays in arrears and is sometimes a good bit in arrears but that must be discounted. Other factors must be considered and the safety of our troops is always our paramount consideration. We must establish what size mission is involved, the other countries that are prepared to contribute and the logistical support the force will have. For example, it has been hinted the UN will seek a force almost twice the size of the present force in Chad. That will require considerable logistical support because of the terrain and I am not disposed to recommending the deployment of our troops without sufficient logistical support.

We must examine all those factors but, taking everything into account, including the humanitarian consideration, the good work that has been done, which has been effective on the ground, the work that remains to be done in that unfortunate part of the world, the cost incurred and the fact that the UN will pay, I am favourably disposed. However, the Government will have to discuss the matter.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  I welcome the fact that the Minister is thinking about this because of the financial and moral logic involved. If he committed the troops to a UN-led mission, we would obtain a return that we are not in receipt of currently. Would that mean withdrawal from the commitment the Minister has given to the EU battle group because the troops would be committed to the Chad mission? As a result, they would not be available because the number deployed on overseas missions is based on a specified percentage of the Defence Forces complement.

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Under our UNSAS commitment, up to 850 troops can be deployed overseas at any time. Sometimes that number is slightly exceeded but that is the general position. This equates to 10% of the enlisted personnel in our standing Army. The military auth[789]orities manage the figures and I have been assured by them that our commitment to the battle group will not be affected. We can participate in missions to Chad, Kosovo and Bosnia while maintaining our commitment to the battle group. A battle group will only involve troops being on the ground for a limited period of 30 days, which can be extended to 120 days. I accept that by 2011 a number of troops will be on stand-by in case they are needed because that is the next time the battle group of which we are part will be needed. With regard to the number of troops on the ground, they will be deployed only for 30 days up to a maximum of 120 days. I am assured by those who manage personnel in the military that they can accommodate the battle group while maintaining our current overseas commitments.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  If 800 troops are deployed on a mission, another 800 under the Minister’s rules cannot be committed to an EU battle group even if that is only for 30 days. There is a contradiction.

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  There is no contradiction. Ireland is part of the Nordic battle group and our commitment is to 95 troops. A total of 746 troops are deployed abroad currently. If our full complement abroad was maintained and troops were needed to be on stand-by for the Nordic battle group for a period or if troops had to be deployed in one of its operations, we would still be within the 850 troop limit.


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