Dáil Éireann - Volume 443 - 16 June, 1994

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Troops in Somalia.

4. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence when a decision will be [2083] announced on the future role, if any, of the Irish peace enforcement troops in Somalia.

Mr. Andrews: The future involvement of Irish troops in Somalia is under review and the final decision will be a matter for Government. The current tour of duty ends next September and the decision will be taken well in advance of that date.

I am aware that Deputy Bradford thinks there should be a debate on this matter in advance of any decision being taken but, as the Deputy is aware, parliamentary time is running out and on that basis I could not give any firm undertaking that such a debate will take place in advance of a Government decision being taken on the matter.

Mr. Bradford: Will the Minister confirm that Irish troops are engaged in peace-keeping in Somalia? Will it continue to be a peace-keeping operation?

Mr. Andrews: Yes. The Security Council changed the rules and reverted to peace-keeping operations. The United Nations forces in Somalia are operating under the most recent Security Council resolutions and so are the Irish contingent. The 83 man and woman Irish transport company is operating under the same ground rules in Baidoa.

Mr. Clohessy: Is there still the same urgent requirement for Irish troops?

Mr. Andrews: The situation is very volatile and I understand that Mogadishu cannot be described as exactly peaceful. There is always the possibility that the trouble will spill out in the country. However, the situation is relatively peaceful by the standards of Somalia. Deputy Bradford asked about the future role of Irish troops in Somalia and that will be examined in due course. Sensitive decisions have to be taken and by giving an indication too far in advance, we might put our troops at risk. Whatever decision is taken may be taken weeks rather than months in advance of the troops leaving.

[2084] Mr. Bradford: The Minister's opposition to peace enforcement has been well reported.

Mr. Andrews: It is outrageous the way I was misquoted.

Mr. Bradford: Have his views drawn any response from military personnel here?

Mr. Andrews: My views, fortunately or unfortunately, are well known in relation to matters that I address. The military authorities would have a fair knowledge of my views and my policy directions and they would be in no doubt in that regard. I have no doubt they take serious account of ministerial positions on any given topic. There are no difficulties in that regard.

Mr. Bradford: Is the Minister saying that the general view abroad that he is opposed to peace enforcement measures is incorrect and that the impression most Deputies may have got during various Dáil Debates and during Question Time was incorrect and that he has no such difficulty with Irish troops carrying out peace enforcement duties?

Mr. Andrews: My position on that is well known. We are a peacekeeping nation, we have a moral role to play with the United Nations as a small island nation on the periphery of Europe. Our voice is respected because of the fact that we have been involved in peacekeeping since 1958. We are committed to an international role in regard to peacekeeping and I believe that a nation of our size— keeping account of our basic philosophies in regard to the areas of defence, security and so on—should be concerned with matters of a peacekeeping nature rather than peace enforcement. In other words, we should be non-aggressive. We do not have a colonial history and we are respected worldwide because of the courageous and urgent manner in which we have conducted ourselves on behalf of the international community, through [2085] the United Nations, in the peacekeeping context. I am sure the Deputy can never see Ireland going to war. That should not be our role in the world. We should try to ensure that peace breaks out and whether we should put guns to our shoulders in pursuit of that objective is a matter of opinion. I do not agree with it.

Mr. Bradford: I do not believe there is any possibility of going to war. I was simply asking the Minister if the general impression which most Deputies here would have from statements and replies by the Minister that he had a personal difficulty with peace enforcement——

An Ceann Comhairle: Repetition is a luxury we cannot afford at Question Time.

Mr. Bradford: Were we mistaken in that impression? Has the Minister any difficulty with peace enforcement?

Mr. Andrews: I would rather this country engaged in peacekeeping——

Mr. Bradford: We would all wish that.

Mr. Andrews: ——and that has always been my position.