Tuesday, 28 June 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 108 together.
My Department, along with the Defence Forces and the Civil Defence, has been working across Government to provide a range of supports in response to the Ukrainian crisis.
Following a direct request from Ukraine, the Defence Forces has provided approximately 10 tonnes or 5,000 units of ready-to-eat meals and 200 units of body armour which have been shipped from Defence Forces stocks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The contribution of the ready-to-eat meals and body armour is a specific element of the Government’s contribution through the European Peace Facility, EPF.
The Air Corps, on behalf of the HSE, has completed four air ambulance airlifts of Ukrainian patients and their families from Poland. The Department of Defence continues to engage with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the HSE in support of potential similar assistance in the future.
The European Peace Facility allows the EU to support the capabilities and resilience of the Ukrainian armed forces. In February, March, April and May of 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted assistance measures under the European Peace Facility. To date, a €2 billion package has been approved that will allow the EU to support the Ukrainian armed forces in defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, and to protect the civilian population against the ongoing Russian military aggression.
In line with the commitment laid out in the 2020 programme for Government and the provisions of the memorandum on the European Peace Facility, approved by the Government in March 2021, Ireland’s financial contribution supporting the Ukrainian armed forces via the European Peace Facility is directed towards providing non-lethal support such as food, medicine and personal protection equipment, which have been specifically requested by the Government of Ukraine. This equipment could include such items as body armour and helmets. A similar approach is also followed by both Austria and Malta. Ireland is providing its full contribution to the EPF assistance measures. Ireland’s contribution so far stands at €44 million.
Following a request from the Ukrainian Prime Minister to the Taoiseach for the provision of specialist training to the Ukrainian armed forces, the Defence Forces have been in contact with the Ukrainian armed forces to clarify the precise training needs and to assess the possibility of providing such training.
In terms of any future defence supports, my Department will continue to assess fully any requests for assistance that are received. We have, of course, also sent ambulances and so on, but that has not been a military support, as such, and is of a more general nature.
Briefly, I thank the Minister very much for that fulsome reply. When he mentions ambulances, a question I would put to the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, is to ask that An Garda Síochána might follow the example of the PSNI, which has been asked by the Ukrainian police to send surplus equipment. In the Minister's own opinion, does he believe that we could be doing more? He mentions that we are constantly reassessing the provision but I have been contacted by quite a number of people who have looked at other EU member states, admittedly not Austria and Malta.
They have donated Javelin missiles, anti-aircraft hardware and armoured vehicles. I appreciate the constraints we are under. We have to be frank. We see the video images of Russians shelling Ukraine once again and blowing up shopping centres. We see people crying over the dead bodies of their loved ones. There was a level of fatigue in western countries for a few weeks as Russia intensified the attacks. That level of fatigue has been shaken from its stupor but we could be doing more.
We want to do more but where we can do more is where Ireland has skill sets and credibility. I referred to training programmes earlier. There has been a specific request for training on demining. This is something in which the Irish Defence Force has specific expertise. We have been involved in demining training programmes in Afghanistan and Mali. This is something we should pursue. I was very involved in finalising the wording of the European Peace Facility. We got agreement on including in the programme for Government being part of the European Peace Facility on the basis of not providing lethal weapons through that funding mechanism. Of course we can provide everything else. The European Peace Facility was not designed to do what it is being used for in Ukraine. It is a useful vehicle to assist the Ukrainian military. We will continue to look to do more but we want to try to do it in a way that is consistent with the programme for government.