Written answers

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Department of Defence

Overseas Missions

10:00 pm

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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Question 111: To ask the Minister for Defence the number of countries in which a deployment of more than 50 members of the Defence Forces are currently serving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8683/07]

Photo of Peter KellyPeter Kelly (Longford-Roscommon, Fianna Fail)
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Question 120: To ask the Minister for Defence the number of members of the Defence Forces serving overseas, their locations and a brief description of their duties there; the expected participation in each mission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8646/07]

Photo of Ivor CallelyIvor Callely (Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Question 293: To ask the Minister for Defence the number of Irish troops serving in overseas missions; the location of such missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8540/07]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 310: To ask the Minister for Defence if further deployment of Irish troops have been requested or are contemplated at other overseas locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9158/07]

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 111, 120, 293 and 310 together.

Ireland is currently contributing 808 Defence Forces personnel to 19 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas on UN mandated operations, observer missions or undertaking representative or staff postings are listed in the tabular statement attached.

The main overseas missions, in which 50 or more Defence Forces personnel are deployed, are the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) with 325 personnel, the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo with 215 personnel and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 165 personnel.

In addition, 41 personnel are serving in EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the UN, EU, OSCE and NATO.

A contingent of the Permanent Defence Forces was deployed for service with UNMIL in December 2003, comprising a motorised infantry battalion of 430 personnel. The main Irish contingent operates as the Force Commander's Rapid Reaction Reserve. The role of the Irish personnel is the provision of an immediate response capability, deployable in sufficient strength and with the required level of force, to provide a swift and decisive military reaction in any crisis situation. The contingent undertakes regular daily patrols within Monrovia and is available to the Force Commander to provide support in the event of a breakdown of law and order or further conflict. UNMIL's area of operations also includes Sierra Leone, and the protection of the Special Court there. Ireland will complete its withdrawal from UNMIL in May 2007.

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 the KFOR since August 1999. The Irish contingent currently comprises an APC Mounted Infantry Group of some 215 personnel including a number of personnel in staff posts at various KFOR Headquarters. Having regard to the fragility of the peace in Kosovo and subject to ongoing assessments of the situation on the ground, Ireland has decided to maintain a continued presence in KFOR in 2007/2008. Ireland will take on the role of Framework Nation for the Multinational Task Force Centre in Kosovo in August, 2007 for a period of 12 months.

The 34th Irish Infantry Group, comprising 158 personnel, deployed to South Lebanon on 31 October, 2006 as part of the integrated Finnish/Irish Battalion within UNIFIL. A further seven (7) Irish personnel are deployed in UNIFIL staff posts.

The joint Finnish-Irish Engineering Battalion carries out tasks in support of UNIFIL, including dealing with unexploded ordnance clearance and reconstruction. Ireland provides the security detail for the Engineering contingent from Finland. While the Irish element is tasked primarily for reconnaissance, security and protection duties associated with these engineering works, it is also be available to undertake other tasks at the request of the UNIFIL Force Commander. Initial deployment will be for 1 year subject to renewal of the mandate and a satisfactory review of the mission at that time.

Ireland has offered, through the UN Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS), to provide up to 850 military personnel, configured as a light infantry mounted battalion, for overseas service at any one time. This figure equates to some 10% of Ireland's standing Army (excluding Reserves) and demonstrates Ireland's commitment to the cause of international peace. This is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas peacekeeping operations. There are no plans at this time to increase the level of our commitment to UNSAS.

Ireland receives requests from time to time in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. We have no such requests at present. However, we are currently fairly close to the limit of our sustainable commitments.

Looking to the future, we will complete our withdrawal from the United Nations Mission in Liberia in May 2007 and will take over as Lead Nation in the KFOR Multinational Task Force Centre in August this year for a period of 12 months. The question of further deployments on overseas missions will be looked at in mid 2007 in the context of the then available resources.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force serving Overseas as of 01 February 2007
Number
1. UN Missions
(i) UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ7
UNIFIL 34th Inf Group158
(ii) UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) — Israel, Syria and Lebanon12
(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
(vii) UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) FHQ 1
UNMIL 96th Inf Bn 324
TOTAL514
UN Mandated Missions
(viii) EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)41
(ix) KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo)215
(x) ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) 7
Total number of personnel serving with UN missions 777
2. EU Missions
(i) European Union Monitor Mission (EUMM) to the former Yugoslavia5
(ii) EU support to UN authorised African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS)3
TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH EU MISSIONS 8
3. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina1
(ii) OSCE Mission in Montenegro1
(iii) OSCE Presence in Albania 2
(iv) OSCE Mission in FRY 2
(v) Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna1
Total number of personnel serving OSCE7
4. Head of Military Staff (Brussels) 1
5. EU Military Staff (Brussels/Mons) 5
6. EU Military Staff (New York)1
7. Liaison Office of Ireland, PfP (Brussels)2
8. Permanent Representative to EU (Brussels) 3
9. Military Representatives/Advisers
(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York1
(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna 1
(iii) Military Representative to Partnership Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium1
10. Appointments — UN HQ (New York)
Officers seconded to DPKO (Department of Peace Keeping Operations)1
TOTAL NUMBER DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS808

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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Question 112: To ask the Minister for Defence if he will provide an assessment of the current security situation in Liberia; when the Irish UNOIL mission will withdraw from Liberia; his plans to visit those troops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8878/07]

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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A contingent of the Permanent Defence Force has been serving with United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) since December 2003, when a motorised infantry battalion of some 430 personnel was first deployed. The Irish contingent operates as the Force Commander's Rapid Reaction Reserve. The role of the Irish personnel is the provision of an immediate response capability, deployable in sufficient strength and with the required level of force, to provide a swift and decisive military reaction to any crisis situation. The contingent undertakes regular daily patrols within Monrovia and is available to the Force Commander to provide support in the event of a breakdown in law and order or further conflict.

UNMIL's area of operations also includes Sierra Leone, and the protection of the Special Court in Freetown. The Quick Reaction Force (QRF) assisted in the transfer from Monrovia to the Special Court of the former President, Charles Taylor, for trial in accordance with the requirements of the UN, following his arrest in Nigeria on 29 March 2006. The QRF also assisted and provided security for the transfer of the former President from Sierra Leone to the court in The Hague in June 2006 where he will stand trial.

The security situation in Liberia is currently assessed as CALM.

The Government has continued to make encouraging progress in consolidating peace, promoting national reconciliation and stimulating economic recovery.

The downsizing of the Irish contingent, as part of a phased withdrawal, commenced in June 2006, following discussions with the UN. Currently, there are 325 troops serving in Liberia. The Swedish contingent, which previously partnered Ireland in the QRF, withdrew from UNMIL in November 2006 and was replaced by a Company from Pakistan in December 2006. Pakistan will take over the full role of the QRF on Ireland's withdrawal in May 2007.

Last year I visited Liberia from 28 February, 2006 to 2 March, 2006. During the visit to Liberia, I met with the Irish personnel of 94th Infantry Battalion serving with UNMIL. The primary purpose of my visit was to see at first hand the work of the Irish Defence Forces Personnel serving with UNMIL and to convey to them, on behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, the deep appreciation felt regarding the outstanding manner in which they perform their duties in this challenging mission.

During the visit, I met with the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG). I also paid a courtesy call to the Deputy Force Commander UNMIL.

In view of the imminent withdrawal of the Irish contingent from UNMIL in May, I have no plans to visit Liberia at this time.

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