Written answers

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Department of Defence

Overseas Missions

5:00 pm

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Question 32: To ask the Minister for Defence if it is inappropriate that a person (details supplied) play a role in briefing members of the Irish Army going to Chad; his views on whether such briefings could result in Army members being given a biased perspective on the situation there, place them at risk of being unfairly accused of partiality by other parties to conflict in the region and place in jeopardy their United Nations mission; if he has received expressions of concern in this regard; and the action proposed by him. [11519/08]

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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The person to whom the Deputy refers was not involved in the mission-specific briefing conducted by the Defence Forces for members of the Defence Forces about to deploy to the EU-led mission in the Republic of Chad and the Central African Republic, known as EUFOR TCHAD/RCA. This mission-specific briefing was conducted by the United Nations Training School Ireland (UNTSI), Curragh, from 10 to 14 March 2008.

The EU mission to Chad, which was established under the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1778 (2007), is committed to the establishment of a force that is neutral and impartial and operates in full co-operation with the UN. A Defence Forces Centre of Excellence for Cultural Awareness has been established in UNTSI. It provides Defence Forces personnel with an understanding of the complex issues of cultural diversity affecting both the host nation and troops from other contributing nations.

The event at which this person spoke was a Cultural Awareness Course conducted by UNTSI from 12 to 14 February 2008. This course focused on the diverse cultural aspects of Central Africa and the Horn of Africa. A broad spectrum of speakers addressed the course including academics from UCD, UL, NUIM, a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Irish Aid, an Irish missionary with experience in Central Africa and Irish officers who have previously served in the region.

The person referred to by the Deputy was invited to address the course on Wed 13 February 2008 on the recommendation of National University Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM). NUIM is the academic partner of the Military College and the speaker is head of a Department there. The theme of his address was Darfur Culture and this person was eminently qualified to discuss this area. The members of the course were informed in advance of his involvement in the Justice Equality Movement and so were aware of his political affiliations. The audience consisted of senior officers of the Permanent Defence Officer and foreign officers from other international Peace Support Training Schools, some of whom, at that point in time, were likely to be deployed to Chad.

Given the ever-evolving nature of Peacekeeping Operations, it is imperative UNTSI provides all members of the Defence Forces with a broad perspective and understanding of cultural, social, political, legal and humanitarian factors impacting on likely areas of deployment. Association with outside agencies, such as academic institutions, Government Departments and NGO's are essential in ensuring that Irish Peacekeepers are deployed with a comprehensive understanding of all of these issues, in accordance with best international standards and practice.

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