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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 May 1999

Vol. 505 No. 2

Ceisteanna–Questions. Priority Questions. - Overseas Missions.

Frances Fitzgerald


5 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish troops available for service under the UNSAS Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13144/99]

Frances Fitzgerald


84 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Defence the number of troops available for active service under the UNSAS standby arrangement; and the number delegated to different missions. [13359/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 84 together.

Ireland has committed a maximum of 850 military personnel for service with the United Nations at any one time under the United Nations Standby Arrangement System, known as UNSAS. There is, however, no obligation to participate in any particular mission and Dáil approval would be required for the dispatch of a contingent to any specific operation. The number of Defence Forces personnel currently deployed to different missions is in the form of a tabular statement, which I propose to circulate in the Official Report. It would be a matter for the Government and the Dáil, as appropriate, to decide on the deployment or redeployment as necessary of contingents of the Defence Forces to individual missions.

The following is the information:

Members of the Permanent Defence Force serving overseas at 18 May 1999

1.UN Missions

(i)UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) 613

(ii)UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) – Israel, Syria and Lebanon 11

(iii)UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) 20

(iv)UNIKOM (United Nations Iraq Kuwait Observer Mission) 5

(v)UNSMA (United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan) 1

(vi)MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) 7

(vii)UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission – Iraq) 1

There is one officer on loan to the UNSCOM head office in the UN Secretariat in New York.

(viii)United Nations Operations in the former Yugoslavia

(a)UNPREDEP (Mission Closed wef 28/2/99)

(b)UNMOP (United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka) 1

(ix)Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina

(a)SFOR HQ Sarajevo 50

(b)Military Liaison Officer, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium 1

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions 710

2.UN HQ (New York)

There is one officer on secondment to the Department of Peacekeeping 1 Operations (DPKO)

3.EU Missions

European Community Monitor Mission (ECMM) to the former Yugoslavia 12

4.Organisation on Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

(i)Military Observers (1 located in Georgia, 8 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2 in Albania) 11

(ii)Staff Officer, High Level Planning Group, Vienna 1

(iii)Staff Appointments, Croatia 5

(iv)Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) 5*

*5 personnel evacuated to Macedonia on 20/3/99

4 officers at present in Macedonia, 1 officer has been deployed to Albania.

Total OSCE 22

5.Military Advisers / Delegates

(i)Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UNHQ, New York 1

(ii)Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna 1

(iii)Military Delegate to Ireland's Observer Delegation to Western European Union, Brussels 1

Total number of Defence Forces personnel serving overseas 748

Note: Four personnel have been seconded to GOAL and are based in Albania. Two personnel are on secondment to the Irish Refugee Agency in Macedonia.

What number of troops would be available if, for example, a request was made for specialist personnel in Kosovo or for other humanitarian missions? The Italians have contributed much humanitarian aid and have recruited personnel from the fire, ambulance and police services. What resources are available at present and what training procedures have been put in place?

I am sure Deputy Fitzgerald would be interested in the earlier discussion on Partnership for Peace and the preparatory training work done in conjunction with other countries to ensure a faster reaction in terms of the deployment of forces which are suitably equipped to deal with any type of emergency which might arise.

Later in the year we hope to go down that road. In the beginning we said we would be able to send a transport company and we envisaged about 100 personnel being available. When such a request is made we will come back to the Dáil for approval. We hope that request will be made as soon as possible. That would mean the beginnings of peace in that troubled area.

Since the Israeli elections we may begin to see the prospects for relieving some of the pressures on UNIFIL. That would change the picture dramatically over a period. One could not envisage that happening immediately. However, it means the figures I have given to Deputy Fitzgerald would change in time. We have a fully equipped transport company and 100 personnel ready to go.

I welcome the fact that some preparatory work is being done. Is it feasible to add more specialists to the medical or engineering areas? There is a gap in what is happening in Kosovo. We are aware from international publications such as Jane's Defence Weekly that this is missing. Is there anything Ireland can do to con tribute? Is training provided for the 100 personnel and is preparatory work being done? I welcome the continuous recruitment drive in which the Minister is involved. I know from my visit to the Lebanon that we will have to ensure a balance between new, inexperienced recruits and older, more experienced personnel on these missions. In that context the overseas duty allowance will be a factor.

We have been successful in continually attracting many experienced personnel to United Nations missions. Each of the reviews I have referred to shows members who have been on their ninth, tenth, eleventh or twelfth mission. That is an enormous commitment that puts great pressure on their families and which the country appreciates. That experience is fundamental, particularly in security terms, to safeguarding the younger personnel. Almost 40 per cent of the contingents taking part in UNIFIL are going for the first time. The additional experience is necessary.

In regard to the medical corps, we are already heavily stretched here but it is an important component in any contingent. Efforts last year to attract more people into the medical corps were not very successful. Another effort will be made this year and we may be able to help in the reorganisation process. The reorganisation process has helped in the training area. We now have more centralised training because of people moving from the barracks which have been closed. There is a better opportunity for more centralised training. While we have no great fears in that area, we cannot take anything for granted. My expectation is that we can do a great deal. We have had requests from GOAL, to which we have responded on two occasions. We have observers and helpers with the refugee agencies. Whenever we make a request to the chief of staff, within 24 hours he is in contact to say he has personnel ready to do the job. The position is fairly satisfactory within limits.

That concludes Priority Questions.