Dáil Éireann - Volume 630 - 01 February, 2007

Written Answers. - Ministerial Travel.

Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Defence the recent visits he has carried out to troops serving abroad; when he will carry out such visits in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2758/07]

  Mr. O’Dea: During the past year I visited Irish personnel serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and with the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo.

During the period 28 February, 2006, to 2 March, 2006, I took the opportunity to visit Liberia where I met with the Irish personnel of 94th Infantry Battalion serving with UNMIL. The primary purpose of my visit was to see at first hand the work of the Irish Defence Forces Personnel serving with UNMIL 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 perform their duties in this challenging mission.

During the course of my visit to Liberia, I met with the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf, and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Alan Doss. I also paid a courtesy call to the Deputy Force Commander UNMIL, Major General Muhammad Tahir.

During the period 12 to 14 June, 2006, I paid a visit to Kosovo where I met with the Irish personnel of 32nd Infantry Battalion serving with the NATO-led International Security Presence in Kosovo (KFOR). During the course of my visit I had a number of briefings and opportunities to see the excellent work being done by the Irish Defence Forces personnel serving with KFOR. I had detailed discussions and briefings from the KFOR Commander: Lieutenant General Giuseppe Valotto at the KFOR HQ at Film City in Pristina. Lt Gen Valotto gave a full assessment of the current position across Kosovo and was fulsome in his praise for the Irish Defence Forces personnel serving there,

On both visits I was impressed by the range of humanitarian activities being supported by Irish Defence Forces personnel in Liberia and Kosovo.

I had planned to visit the Defence Forces contingent in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in late November, 2006, but was advised by the Chief of Staff that I should defer my visit until the New Year, when the mission was more established and had a more detailed understanding and assessment of the operation and the security situation. I am now looking forward to visiting the contingent towards the end of February.