Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
European Defence Agency Project: Motion
Deputy Barrett has strong views on this subject, which I absolutely respect. However, members of the Irish Defence Forces have been participating in EDA projects since 2005. I named a number of the projects they have participated in. They include: a force protection programme; a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection programme; counter-improvised explosives devices manual neutralisation projects; maritime surveillance networking projects; co-operation on cyber ranges in the European Union; and joint procurement arrangements for satellite communications. My view is that peacekeeping and the EDA are interlinked and have interoperability. We cannot do peacekeeping without doing the training and education for our personnel or giving them the very best equipment.
On the previous occasion on which I was before the committee, the motion relating to Operation Sophia was going through and I stated that peacekeeping has changed. The Deputy had a different opinion but I have been involved with the Defence Forces since 2011 and I have seen advances in technology in that period of which we have to keep abreast. The threats we face today are totally different from those we faced when we first went to the Congo in the 1960s, at the beginning of our proud peacekeeping tradition. The Deputy said the majority of the Irish people do not want to get involved in these things but I have a different opinion on this. I believe that, when we send members of the Defence Forces overseas on peacekeeping duties, such as on the UNIFIL mission where we have 460 people or UNDOF, the vast majority of Irish people expect them to have the best of training, equipment and expertise. If we had not trained and educated members of the Irish Defence Forces but left them as they were in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s, we would have had many more fatalities than we have had.
The Deputy said that peacekeeping had not changed, but I beg to differ with him on that. It is still about keeping the peace but we need to have the necessary capability and capacity when we send troops overseas.