Dáil Éireann - Volume 514 - 17 February, 2000
Other Questions. - Visit to Kosovo.
Mr. Cosgrave Mr. Cosgrave
9. Mr. Cosgrave asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on his recent visit to Kosovo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4616/00]
Mr. M. Smith Mr. M. Smith
Mr. M. Smith: Last month I had the opportunity to pay a short visit to Kosovo where I met with Irish troops serving with the 1st Irish Contingent (Transport Company), KFOR. The primary purpose of my visit was to see at first hand the work of the Irish military personnel serving in the region 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 continue to perform their duties on overseas service.
During the course of my visit I attended a medal parade where the guest of honour was General Klaus Reinhardt, overall Commander of the 48,000 troops serving with KFOR. I was proud to hear again the fulsome praise for the Irish Defence Forces from a commanding officer of a multinational force. Dr. Reinhardt paid a glowing tribute to the achievements of all the Irish personnel serving with KFOR and to the “great contribution they have made to the rebuilding of a country”.
I saw again how the hearts of Irish soldiers are touched by the humanitarian catastrophe which is prevalent in Kosovo. Since the Irish troops set up Camp Clarke in Pristina they have raised funds to rebuild the homes of several families. I was personally touched by the devastation I wit nessed in Kosovo. In order to allow the Irish Contingent continue with their humanitarian efforts, I was delighted to be in a position to make a grant of £10,000 available for suitable projects to be identified and undertaken by the Irish Contingent. I know that the soon to depart 2nd Irish Contingent (Transport Company), KFOR, will continue this humanitarian work and have already arranged to take out with them two containers of clothes and toys for distribution to the local population.
I regard Irish participation in KFOR as an important and practical expression of our ongoing commitment to peacekeeping in general and to the cause of peace and stability in Kosovo. Furthermore, it responds to the foreign policy priority of staying in the mainstream of peacekeeping at a time when the UN is increasingly turning to regional solutions for peacekeeping.
Mr. Wall Mr. Wall
Mr. Wall: Will the Minister as a matter of urgency go to the Lebanon to boost the morale of Irish personnel serving there? I think this would be expected and I ask him to do so as soon as possible.
Mr. M. Smith Mr. M. Smith
Mr. M. Smith: I have planned to visit the troops in South Lebanon around St. Patrick's Day, just a couple of weeks away. Needless to say, it will be a different kind of trip to that which I had envisaged.
Dáil Éireann 514 Other Questions. Visit to Kosovo.