I welcome Deputy Stanton, the new Fine Gael spokesperson on defence. I acknowledge the hard work and difficult questions put to me by Deputy Deenihan heretofore.
Ireland has offered, through the UN stand-by arrangements system, UNSAS, to provide up to 850 military personnel for overseas service at any one time. This figure equates to some 10% of Ireland's standing Army, excluding reserves, and demonstrates Ireland's commitment to the cause of international peace. This is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas peacekeeping operations.
Following the recent withdrawal of the Irish battalion from the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, MINURCAT, Ireland is, as of 1 July 2010, contributing some 170 Defence Forces personnel to 12 different missions throughout the world.
With regard to future deployments, Ireland receives requests from time to time in regard to participation in various missions, and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. When considering any particular request, the existence of realistic objectives and a clear mandate, which has the potential to contribute to a political solution, consideration of how the mission relates to the priorities of Irish foreign policy and the degree of risk involved are among the factors considered. No request has been received to date from the UN in regard to the deployment of a Defence Forces contingent to the UN force in the Lebanon, UNIFIL, or to any another UN mission.
Following the recent withdrawal of the MINURCAT contingent, the Defence Forces will undertake essential and extensive maintenance of equipment, which will be repatriated from Chad later this month, in order to prepare for and be ready for their next deployment. The process of examining further options for Defence Forces overseas operations has already begun.
Initial informal inquiries have been made at UN level on available missions and my officials are consulting like-minded nations on potential future operations. I am aware that participation in overseas operations over the years has given Defence Forces personnel the opportunity to develop skills and competencies through practice in actual operational circumstances. Over the years, Ireland has built up a fine reputation in the field of international peacekeeping and a considerable volume of international goodwill has resulted. I assure the House of the Government's continuing commitment to international peacekeeping under a UN mandate.