Dáil Éireann - Volume 607 - 06 October, 2005
Written Answers. - Overseas Missions.
Mr. Gormley Mr. Gormley
11. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department has been consulted by the Department of Defence for changes in the Defence Acts to permit Irish troops to serve abroad in European battlegroups; the present position of his Department on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27049/05]
Mr. Bruton Mr. Bruton
106. Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he discussed Irish participation in EU battlegroups with the United Nations during the recent World Summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26882/05]
Mr. Gormley Mr. Gormley
159. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department has been consulted by the Department of Defence for changes in the Defence Acts to permit Irish troops to serve abroad in European battlegroups; the position of his Department on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27234/05]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Mr. D. Ahern: I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 106 and 159 together.
 At last November’s European Union Military Capabilities Commitment Conference, Ireland indicated that we were prepared to enter into consultations with partners with a view to potential participation in the battlegroups initiative. As reported previously to the House, I have subsequently undertaken consultations with my counterparts from Sweden, Finland and Austria on the role that battlegroups, or rapid response elements as they are also known, can play in enhancing the EU’s crisis management capabilities.
At the domestic level, an interdepartmental group, which includes representatives of my Department, the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and the Attorney General’s office, is currently examining the policy, legislative and operational issues arising from Ireland’s possible participation in rapid response elements, or battlegroups. The work of the group is ongoing. A subgroup dealing with legal and legislative issues is to report shortly and I expect that, once the legal issues have been clarified, it will be possible for the group to complete its deliberations on the other issues quite quickly. The group will report, in the first instance, to the Minister for Defence.
I hope that the report of the interdepartmental group will enable the Government, in due course, to make a fully informed decision on Ireland’s participation in rapid response elements, or battlegroups.
I did not discuss Irish participation in EU rapid response elements, or battlegroups, with the United Nations during the recent World Summit, as the discussions in New York focused on the main themes of the summit itself. However, the House will be aware that the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in his address to the National Forum on Europe during his visit to Ireland in November 2004, welcomed the development of the battlegroups concept. He noted the important role that regional organisations such as the EU can play in supporting the UN in crisis management and peacekeeping operations. Earlier this year, the Secretary General emphasised this point again in his major report on UN reform entitled “In Larger Freedom”. In this report, he called on the international community to support the efforts by the European Union, the African Union and others to establish standby capacities as part of an interlocking system of peacekeeping capacities.
The outcome document of the World Summit includes a paragraph recognising the important contribution to peace and security by regional organisations. It is significant that this paragraph contains an endorsement of the efforts of the EU in this regard, as follows: “We support the efforts of the European Union and other regional entities to develop capacities such as for rapid  deployment, standby and bridging arrangements”— Para 93 (b).
The outcome document forms part of the context in which the Government will consider possible Irish participation in EU battlegroups. As the Deputy will also be aware, any Irish participation in an actual operation would remain a sovereign national decision, subject to the usual triple lock requirements of Government decision, Dáil approval and UN authorisation.
Question No. 12 answered with Question No. 10.
Dáil Éireann 607 Written Answers. Overseas Missions.