Dáil Éireann - Volume 625 - 12 October, 2006
Written Answers. - Overseas Missions.
Mr. Howlin Mr. Howlin
Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish troops who are engaged in UN missions abroad; the number of troops on each mission; when each mission started and when it is due to end; the number of Irish troops who are engaged in non-UN work abroad; their locations; the nature of their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32173/06]
Mr. Boyle Mr. Boyle
Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Defence the level of Irish military forces serving overseas following the planned deployment in Lebanon; the way this relates to the recommended overseas Irish military deployments at any one time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32305/06]
Mr. O’Dea Mr. O’Dea
Mr. O’Dea:I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 62 together.
Ireland is currently contributing 677 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 table.
The main overseas commitments are to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), with 328 personnel, to the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo, with 213 personnel and to EUFOR, the EU-led  operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 58 personnel. 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.
UNMIL was established in September 2003. A contingent of the Permanent Defence Forces was deployed for service 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. Ireland and Sweden agreed in December 2005 to provide support in expanding the area of operations to include Sierra Leone, including protection of the Special Court.
Ireland was due to complete its participation in UNMIL in November 2006. However, in response to a request earlier this year from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to the Taoiseach, it was decided to extend the duration of the deployment in Liberia to May 2007, in order to give the UN time to find a suitable replacement for the QRF capability. The Swedish contingent, which currently partners Ireland in the QRF, will withdraw in November, 2006, and will be replaced by a Company from Pakistan. In May, 2007, the Irish contingent will be withdrawn and, to this end, mission downsizing has now commenced with the agreement of the UN. Pakistan will assume overall responsibility for the provision of the QRF in UNMIL on Ireland’s withdrawal.
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 213 personnel including a number of personnel in staff posts at various KFOR Headquarters.
A reorganisation and downsizing of the forces in KFOR, including the Irish contingent, was planned and had partly commenced when civil disturbances broke out in March 2004 in Kosovo. That downsizing was deferred to allow the situation to settle, this remains the current  situation. 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 2006/2007.
Last month, the Government agreed to the Defence Forces undertaking an additional responsibility as Framework Nation for the Multinational Task Force Centre (MNTF (C)) in KFOR from August 2007. This will be a new development for the Defence Forces as we have never before commanded a brigade size force in multinational PfP-led peace support operation. Undertaking this new responsibility will contribute significantly to the development of the Defence Forces, improving its capabilities and heightening its profile as a professional and well-organised force within the international peacekeeping community.
Operation Althea — EUFOR, an EU military mission, was established in November 2004 to replace Stabilisation Force (SFOR), a NATO-led mission in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Ireland had participated in SFOR since 1997. Ireland is part of the Austrian-led Multinational Task Force (North) and provides personnel for the headquarters, the Military Police Unit, Verification Teams and a National Support element. Ireland currently acts as the Framework Nation for the Military Police Platoon.
Earlier this month, the Government agreed, subject to Dáil approval, the despatch of a contingent of the Defence Forces for service as part of a joint Finnish/Irish Unit with United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The necessary enabling motion was moved in the Dáil on 10 October, 2006 and was approved yesterday.
The Finnish engineering unit will carry out tasks in support of UNIFIL and also some humanitarian work, including dealing with unexploded ordnance clearance. While the Irish element will be tasked primarily for reconnaissance, security and protection duties associated with the engineering works, it will also be available for other taskings by the Force Commander of UNIFIL.
The Defence Forces contingent of approximately 150 troops will bring the numbers currently serving overseas to approximately 830. Ireland’s commitment under the United Nations Stand-by Arrangements System (UNSAS) is 850, which represents 10% of the total Army strength. This is the figure set in the White paper on Defence and is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas operations. There are no plans at this time to increase the level of our commitment to UNSAS and any contribution to EU or UN Missions will be met within the context of the 850 ceiling.
Dáil Éireann 625 Written Answers. Overseas Missions.