Priority Questions

Defence Forces Properties

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

107. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence if he will ensure that all current overholders at the Curragh in County Kildare may remain in their current residence for the duration of the current housing crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21737/15]

My question deals with the issue of overholders at the Curragh camp. A small number of overholders remain at the camp and my question focuses on the housing crisis that exists both nationally and in County Kildare. I ask if, at least for the duration of the housing crisis, the Minister and his Department will desist from pressurising people out of their homes on the Curragh camp.

Personnel who leave the Defence Forces or who vacate a married quarter property that had been assigned to them are required under regulations to return vacant possession of that property. Where the property is not vacated, those remaining in the property are overholding and, as they have no right under military regulations to hold or reside in military accommodation, the Department will in accordance with normal procedures continue to seek to recover possession from them. While each case of overholding is dealt with on an individual basis, it is important to remember that the Department does not have a role in the provision of housing accommodation for the general public. The Department does however assist in whatever way it can in order to resolve the cases of overholding without recourse to legal action, as it is preferable not to have to use legal means to obtain vacant possession of the properties concerned. If individuals are not in a position to secure housing in their own right, it may be the case that they qualify for social housing or that they qualify for some level of housing assistance and, when requested to do so, the Department provides whatever documentation it can to support such applications.

The Deputy can be assured that my Department will deal with any overholders in a vulnerable position in a sensitive manner and will where possible work with the local authorities to help find solutions to the current overholding problem with due consideration. What I cannot do, though, is to give the Deputy a blanket commitment that everybody can stay in their property if they want to, until the pressures on housing demand ease.

That is essentially saying that after people leave the Defence Forces, even in a military camp, they can stay in the accommodation they have been in while in the Defence Forces. There are all sorts of reasons we cannot do that.

I appreciate the Minister's goodwill on this matter. However, there is a certain irony, if not an element of the perverse, in what we see happening. The Minister responded very positively in respect of the national homelessness crisis in the aftermath of the death of Jonathan Corrie outside this House. I raised the issue with him at an Estimates meeting and he responded positively, stating that his Department would take action. In fact, he made St. Bricin's hospital available to deal with the homelessness situation. Is it not extraordinary that he has moved to deal with the homelessness situation in Dublin, while at the same time, during this crisis, his Department is forcing people out of properties in the Curragh Camp and thereby contributing to the homelessness problem in Kildare, where 6,500 people are on the waiting list and 250 people are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness? He is moving people out of these houses so that the houses can be knocked down or boarded up.

The Deputy will know that the housing challenges faced by Kildare County Council can hardly be put on me. We have tried to be as helpful as we can in respect of people who are still in properties they should legally have vacated a long time ago in most cases. They knew that when they joined the Defence Forces. They knew the rules. We are not putting anybody out of houses and onto the streets, so let us not allow that impression to get out. We have said that we will look at each case individually. If people are in a vulnerable position we will take that into account, as we have been doing. We will talk to Kildare County Council to try to prioritise housing if people want to go on the housing list. However, we cannot maintain a position whereby, because it is expensive or difficult to find a house, non-members of the Defence Forces can stay indefinitely in a barracks. Even for security reasons, there are issues with that. We will try to be as accommodating and helpful as we can, but we must recognise that the Department of Defence is not a housing organisation.

The people who have lived on the Curragh Camp, going back before the establishment of the State, were people who had an intrinsic connection with the Defence Forces. The camp was not just an army camp; it was a garrison settlement. The Minister's predecessors, including people from my party, were wrong when they signed up to a policy of depopulation of the Curragh Camp. We can have a lengthy debate about that some other time, but currently there is a shortage of houses in County Kildare. I accept that an economic contribution should be made to the Minister's Department by anybody occupying a house, but if the Minister forces people out of the accommodation they have in the Curragh they will inevitably move towards homelessness, because Kildare County Council has nothing to offer them, no matter how much the Minister talks to it. Homelessness is inevitable.

Just so that the facts are clear, of the 27 overholders in the Curragh, ten are not paying rent and five of those are not paying any electricity charges either. This is a small number of people and properties. I will not be hounding people out of their homes. However, when people join the Defence Forces and move into married quarters, they know they are supposed to hand over that property within three weeks of leaving the Defence Forces.

In many cases, we have gone way beyond that timeline. There is a difficulty in terms of finding alternative accommodation, and we have tried to be accommodating and understanding in that regard but there are limits, and I simply cannot give the impression here that we will ignore this reality for as long as it takes for there to be an improvement in the social housing lists in Kildare, which could be indefinite. I take on board what the Deputy is saying but he should not-----

The Minister is not very optimistic about that situation.

I must call the next speaker.

-----ask me to do the impossible.

Naval Service Operations

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

108. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the work done by the LE Eithne and its crew, since the ship was deployed to the Mediterranean; his plans to expand the role that the LE Eithne is fulfilling in the region, especially in relation to the recently agreed European Union naval force operation in the Mediterranean. [21693/15]

Yesterday, the Irish Naval ship, the LE Eithne, left hundreds of refugees in an Italian port. I want to record the appreciation of the Irish people for the tremendous work they are doing, but there are concerns that we would be pulled into the EUNAVFOR force and that our mission would move from one of search and rescue to something that would not be in the interests of the Irish State and the Irish people. Can the Minister clarify his plans for its role in the future?

A number of questions have been tabled on the operations in the Mediterranean and I thank colleagues for raising that issue. We made a decision a number of weeks ago to send a ship to the Mediterranean. It caused a few eyebrows to be raised at the time because this is the first overseas mission for the Naval Service. Most people would recognise now that it has been a very worthy mission and decision. Just under 1,200 people have been rescued from boats, some of which were sinking, others had run out of fuel and others, which had men, women, children and infants on board, had no water or food left. Commander Pearse O'Donnell and his crew on the LE Eithne are doing an extraordinarily professional and compassionate job in the Mediterranean and I want to put that on the record of the House. I thank them for the work they are doing on behalf of everybody here.

On the political point that the Deputy made, I want to give him some reassurance. We made a decision to send a ship for a search and rescue mission to partner on a bilateral basis with the Italian navy. That is what we are doing and that is what we had committed to do. If we were to do anything else in that area in terms of linking in with other missions or other political decisions, there would need to be a Government decision on that and, I assume, a debate on it in this House. Certainly, I will inform the House before I do anything like that. I expect the commitment we have made in respect of the LE Eithne will continue up to the end of September. The LE Eithne will probably be replaced by another ship in seven or eight weeks' time but we are committed to a search and rescue humanitarian mission which is why we did not, for example, have the triple-lock process applying to this decision. We intend to maintain that as a humanitarian search and rescue mission for the foreseeable future.

I thank the Minister for his response. The Irish people are immensely proud of the search and rescue humanitarian mission. It fits in with Ireland being a neutral country but one that contributes proactively to humanitarian responses globally. I urge the Minister to ensure all this good work is not undermined by going down the road of a EUNAVFOR mission. I would have concerns around such a mission. It is dangerous and volatile for people fleeing war. I am particularly mindful of the catastrophe that is happening in Libya and, unfortunately, the international community has created an absolute mess there. That brings me on to the refugee issue, which I will deal with further at the next opportunity, and Ireland taking in a reasonable and fair share of refugees.

I attended a meeting of both Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers at which this issue and how we can respond to it was discussed. It is very unusual to have such a combined meeting. A decision was made in principle to set up EUNAVFOR Med, which essentially has a number of phases to it, ranging from patrolling and rescue to trying to target and undermine some of the people trafficking gangs, which are operating and making a good deal of money out of creating human misery and putting people into very dangerous and vulnerable positions.

Anything beyond search and rescue and assistance operations will require a UN Security Council resolution and the support of state actors, such as Libya, that have an interest in this. We are quite a ways from that, though. Ireland's focus is on doing what we can do practically and working through the Departments of Justice and Equality and Foreign Affairs and Trade in terms of humanitarian assistance. If the other mission gets set up on the back of a Security Council mandate, we will have to make a decision as to whether we want to be a part of that. At the moment, though, it is not on the table.

Like me, the Minister would have been proud of the words of the President, Michael D. Higgins, when he was in Lebanon regarding Europe's failure to deal with the refugee crisis and the unacceptable catastrophe of thousands of people drowning in the Mediterranean. Italy and Malta cannot be expected to shoulder the responsibility. This is a European responsibility. I note that there has been confirmation from the Minister for Justice and Equality that we will receive 300 refugees, but we can do more. While this is not the Minister's area of responsibility, I suppose he will work in partnership with the Ministers for Justice and Equality and Foreign Affairs and Trade. I urge the three of them to ensure that Ireland does as much as it can and shoulders its part of the responsibility so that we can bring an end to this heartbreaking situation in which so many people have lost their lives in desperation. Consider our own history of emigration. We are the only country in the world that has a smaller population than we had in the early 1800s. Of all of the countries in Europe, one would imagine that we would do our best to support the effort to give safe refuge to people fleeing appalling scenarios.

It is important to state that what Ireland is doing in the Mediterranean forms part of a collective effort. The UK and Germany are also there and Italy is heavily involved in co-ordinating search and rescue operations, processing asylum applications and looking after people's needs, which are complex. Large numbers are involved. This is a major issue and will not go away any time soon, so there needs to be a significant focus in the EU on trying to assist in preventing the causes of mass migration in north Africa. There are multiple causes and, unfortunately, there is more conflict in much of the world now than there has been for a long time.

Responsibility for making decisions on numbers lies with the Minister for Justice and Equality. She is considering this matter and I have discussed it with her. We have made clear that Ireland will, and wants to, do its fair share, but we must also recognise the size of our country in terms of what we can accommodate. What is not acceptable is allowing countries like Malta, Italy and, increasingly, Greece to deal with the problems in the Mediterranean on their own. So, I-----

I am sorry, Minister, but I must call Deputy Clare Daly to ask her question. We are out of time.

Naval Service Operations

Clare Daly

Question:

109. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence his views regarding whether it is appropriate for the LE Eithne to take part in Operation Triton in view of the fact that it is primarily an exercise in border control rather than in humanitarian rescue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21536/15]

This question is similar to that posed by Deputy Mac Lochlainn. While I agree with the Minister that there are multiple reasons for the large number of refugees, the predominant cause is Western-instigated wars and exploitation in countries such as Libya, Syria and Eritrea. While I am glad that the LE Eithne and the Naval Service have rescued people in the Mediterranean, we need to dig deeper. We must consider what happens to those people after they are rescued and our role therein, examine the conditions causing them to become refugees in the first place, and consider whether we have a role in that regard.

I will answer the question that was tabled and revert on the refugee issue.

To be clear, the LE Eithne is not engaged in Operation Triton or in any form of border security operation as part of its deployment to the Mediterranean. Section 3 of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006 permits, with the approval of the Government, the despatch of Naval Service vessels and personnel for humanitarian search and rescue tasks only. It does not permit the carrying out of border control-type tasks such as those undertaken by Operation Triton.

The deployment of the LE Eithne, following Government approval, supports those measures already taken by Italy and other EU states in the search for and rescue of migrants and the provision of humanitarian assistance as provided under international law. There is no international humanitarian search and rescue operation established by any decision of any international body or national authorities in the Mediterranean. The Naval Service deployment does not form part of any such operation. It involves the unilateral deployment by Ireland of a Naval Service vessel to the Mediterranean where it is undertaking humanitarian search and rescue tasks in accordance with the applicable provisions of international conventions governing search and rescue situations and in co-ordination with the Italian authorities.

The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean is of great concern to Ireland and its EU partners. The LE Eithne and its crew are providing an invaluable asset in assisting with the Mediterranean migrant crisis. I have given the numbers that have been rescued in an incredibly short period of time. This has been a very busy and testing mission. On the broader issues, Ireland needs to play its part as part of a European effort. This is what the conversation was all about at the last meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Council. We will continue to do that. I hope we will play a part in sharing some of the burden with regard to the migrants and the assessment of their asylum applications.

I am very glad that the Minister has stated clearly that our naval forces are not involved in Operation Triton. The reality is that they are operating side by side with that exercise, which is run under Frontex and the EU border control agency. We must consider that the humanitarian mission run by the Italians since 2013 under Operation Mare Nostrum, which they were pressurised by the EU to cease, succeeded in rescuing almost 150,000 people before it was replaced by Operation Triton, which is primarily an exercise in border control. While I appreciate the Minister's assurance that our forces are not involved in the new operation and are engaged in a purely humanitarian mission, that needs to be examined further. Are the people who are taken on board the LE Eithne not on Irish sovereign soil? Should they not be covered by the 1951 refugee convention? Should we not have an obligation to land them in Malta or Italy for a short period of time before bringing them back to Ireland, where we could consider a resettlement programme? It is a bit of a half-measure to have one without the other.

I do not know whether the Deputy is suggesting that the almost 1,200 people who have been rescued to date should have been brought back to Ireland. If we had to steam for four or five days to come back to Cork Harbour or somewhere else in Ireland, the practicalities of that would mean we could not be effective in the Mediterranean. We are trying to assist in a massive task. Thousands of people are looking to cross the Mediterranean in boats that are not fit to cross the River Liffey, never mind the Mediterranean. They are packed onto those boats with no life jackets or life rafts. In some cases, they do not have enough food, water or fuel. Essentially, we are trying to provide an emergency response capacity that does not solve all problems but solves part of the problem. We are using our expertise and professionalism through the Naval Service to rescue those people and take them on board. They are likely to stay on the LE Eithne for 12 hours or less, or maybe slightly more if we are steaming to an Italian port, before they are disembarked and looked after appropriately in terms of their medium-term medical needs and their asylum applications, etc.

The legal provisions around that work were explored before we sent the ship to the Mediterranean so that we could do it efficiently.

We have one of the worst records in Europe for accommodating refugees. I would have no problem whatsoever with the resettlement of 1,200 people, or many more, in Ireland. They would not have to be transported by the LE Eithne. Moving them to a direct provision centre in Italy or Malta is not the solution. Ireland has a part to play in that resettlement programme, way beyond what we have already offered. Whether we like it or not, we have been complicit in making these people refugees in the first place by allowing the US military unlimited and unrestricted access to Shannon Airport, which has had a considerable destabilising impact on countries such as Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Is there not an argument that once the refugees are on the LE Eithne they are covered by the UN convention on refugees and we should consider granting them asylum? Should we not consider taking many more? Do we expect Italy, Greece or Malta to take them all?

For the record, we are not disembarking any refugees in Malta. This is purely an agreement with Italy and it is very happy to have Ireland as part of the combined effort in the Mediterranean. It makes sense, however, to try to manage numbers in relatively few locations, rather than all over Europe.

The Deputy is right that there is a conversation under way, one that needs to be held, and decisions need to be made on the back of that conversation about how other countries across the EU can help to share the burden of accommodating successful asylum seekers in different parts of Europe. We need to be sure that whatever commitment we make we can follow through on in terms of available accommodation, support services and so on. We will be generous but realistic about what Ireland can do.

Defence Forces Properties

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

110. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence his plans for the sale of lands at Magee Barracks in Kildare town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21738/15]

In 1998 the then Minister for Defence, Michael Smith, announced the closure of Magee Barracks at Kildare town. In so doing he brought to an end the history of the town as a garrison that had originally accommodated the British Army and, since the foundation of the State, members of the Irish Army. Thankfully, all staff and personnel were moved up the road to the Curragh Camp. At that time, however, recognising the importance of this 62-acre site to Kildare, he gave a firm commitment, subsequently endorsed by most of his successors, that ten acres of the barracks, or the value thereof, would be transferred for the benefit of the local community. Is the Minister going to honour that commitment?

In July 1998, the Government approved a programme for the evacuation and sale of six Army barracks considered no longer necessary for military requirements. Magee Barracks was one of the barracks identified for closure and disposal. On 1 July 2003 the Government decided the former Magee Barracks in Kildare town would be among the State lands released to Kildare County Council for inclusion in the Sustaining Progress affordable housing initiative. On foot of this Government decision, Kildare County Council prepared a local area plan for the site which encompassed a range of uses, including community use. Following discussions between the Department, Kildare County Council and the then Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and in accordance with the terms of the housing initiative, it was agreed that the entire site would be transferred to Kildare County Council. A final contract for transfer was issued to Kildare County Council in January 2009. Subsequently, however, the council advised the Department that it no longer wished to take possession of the property.

Officials from my Department recently met with the chief executive officer and an official from Kildare County Council. The discussions centred on a number of issues, including the Department’s future plans for Magee Barracks. It is proposed to dispose of the remaining circa 54 acres of the barracks by public auction later this year.

The local development plan for Kildare town for 2012 to 2018 has made provision for substantial community developments on the barracks site. Consequently, any buyer will be obliged to comply with these provisions, thereby ensuring that the local community will benefit directly from the sale.

The Department sought to transfer the entire site but Kildare County Council decided not to proceed with the proposal, which is fine. As a result of a local area plan, however, there will be a significant community value element to any future development at the site and it will be a matter for Kildare County Council to ensure this occurs.

We find ourselves in an interesting position. The acquisition by the Department of Education and Skills of two sites for the development of an Educate Together school and a Gaelscoil is a positive and welcome development. However, transfer to a local authority is not the same as transfer to a community. The specific written commitment was that ten acres of land at the site or the value thereof would be made available to the community. Moreover, I inquired of Kildare County Council about its refusal in 2009 to accept the site in its entirety and officials informed me that, having searched the county council's files, they can find no record to indicate that the land was offered to the council. I put it to the Minister that someone is being disingenuous in reporting to me on this particular issue. How are we to get to the bottom of the matter? A specific transfer to the community of ten acres of land or moneys to an equivalent value is required.

Is it not the case that the local authority represents the community?

We all represent the community.

I am not sure to which entity the Deputy proposes that the land be transferred. I was not the Minister for Defence in 2009 but I will restate the position to clarify the matter: "Following discussions between the Department, Kildare County Council and the then Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and in accordance with the terms of the housing initiative, it was agreed that the entire site would be transferred to Kildare County Council." I would be very surprised if the Department was making up that statement. I will request a copy of the minutes of the relevant meetings and forward it to the Deputy.

When the Department is disposing of Army barracks it always seeks, first and foremost, to transfer them to other agencies of the State, whether the Garda Síochána, the Department of Education and Skills or a local authority, or considers them for community use, for example, by local sports clubs. We have always tried to prioritise securing public value in the disposal of lands or assets, including barracks. The Department has done this on many occasions and the case in Kildare is not any different. I believe there has been a misunderstanding on the part of Kildare County Council or it has changed its mind in respect of its involvement in this matter. I will-----

I must interrupt to call Deputy Ó Fearghaíl. I ask Members to pay attention to the clock.

While I accept the Minister's goodwill in this matter, there is a dearth of community, sporting and other resources in County Kildare which could be addressed, at least in part, through the use of the ten acre site or the value thereof. If the property is to be sold, a methodology should be found to make the site or the value thereof available to the community. The use to which the remainder of the site is put is also of great importance given its central location in Kildare.

In the past two hours, senior officials in Kildare County Council have informed me that they have no record of the Department making it an offer of the lands in question. I am also informed by the elected representatives of the council that they were not consulted or informed at any stage in 2009 that the Department of Defence wanted to transfer the site of more than 62 acres gratis to the local authority. Someone, therefore, is wrong.

That is clearly the case. The local development plan for Kildare town designates certain use for the land in question.

That has nothing to do with the transfer of the land.

Clearly, Kildare County Council has been thinking about what this land would be used for. The issue as to whether people are now saying there were no conversations and no agreement to transfer the site is something about which we will have to go back and ask the officials involved as to who said what and when. I am not going to get into that with the Deputy now on the floor of the House. I would be very surprised if the official response I have to a parliamentary question was as inaccurate as the Deputy suggests it might be. That is unlikely to be the case, but we will certainly look into it.

Overseas Missions

Clare Daly

Question:

111. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on the continued presence of Defence Forces personnel in Afghanistan, with particular reference to the prospect of the extension of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission there. [21537/15]

This question is on the numbers and activities of our Defence Forces personnel who remain in Afghanistan given that they do so after the exodus of British troops and large numbers of US troops and the current and continuing destabilisation and insecurity that exists in that country. I am particularly concerned about this in light of the prospect of the extension of the NATO mission in the area and how our Defence Forces personnel feed into that or not.

On 9 December 2014, the Government approved the participation of seven members of the Defence Forces in the new NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, which commenced on 1 January 2015 following the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, mission from Afghanistan. Resolute Support is a non-combat training and advisory mission. It is designed to support and develop the capacity of the Afghan National Defence Forces to ensure the security of the Afghan population and their national Government institutions following the withdrawal of the ISAF mission. The United Nations Security Council welcomed the Resolute Support mission with the unanimous adoption on 12 December 2014 of Resolution 2189. This resolution underscores the importance of continued international support for the stability of Afghanistan.

There are seven Defence Forces personnel deployed to the mission. They are based at the mission headquarters in Kabul. These personnel are employed in training and advisory roles in operations, training and support appointments. As I indicated, this is not a combat mission. The work being carried out by the Defence Forces personnel represents an important if relatively small contribution to the overall mission. The Defence Forces continue to monitor the security situation in Afghanistan and Irish participation with the Resolute Support mission is subject to ongoing review. Any decision in relation to continued participation in the mission beyond December 2015 will be taken in the context of the situation pertaining at the time and will be subject to Government approval.

Am I to take it from the Minister's response that the seven people who are there will remain there until the end of 2015? While the Minister says they are there to bring stability and support for Afghanistan, I put it to him that if that is their goal, it has been an abysmal failure.

They have only just begun there.

If they have only just begun, let us look at why they are there. Thirteen years ago, the Bush Administration went into Afghanistan supposedly to quash al-Qaeda and drive out the Taliban. Later, we were told the exercise was to eradicate poppy growing and emancipate women. The statistics show the loss of hundreds of British troops, thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghanis. A Taliban has been developed which is not weaker than it was in 2001 and which has in fact morphed into ISIS. Last year saw the most bountiful crop of poppies in the history of Afghanistan, the rights of women have considerably regressed and $100 billion has been spent on a country which is still one of the poorest, least developed and most corrupt in the world. How in God's name could anyone call that a success or want Ireland to have any part of it?

We are not talking about ISAF; that is the whole point. We are moving on from that. The mission Deputy Daly is talking about is no longer there.

It has left a great legacy.

What we are talking about now is a non-combat support mission to help with governance and security which are primarily provided by local populations in Afghanistan.

That is what is being supported by Ireland. We are supporting something that has been unanimously supported by the UN Security Council. We are providing seven people who have a specific training role and who are more than welcome both locally in Kabul and by the UN. A great many other countries are also participating in the Resolute Support mission. I do not have the exact figure, but it is more than 20 countries. This is a non-combat, non-military assistance programme whose aim is to help build domestic capacity in a country that has been torn apart and is trying to put itself back together over time. I am happy that Ireland is playing a small but real and significant role in those efforts.

The Minister says this is moving on from the ISAF. It does not make any sense for the Minister to expect the same people who wreaked havoc and destroyed a country to be involved in rebuilding it. The Minister talks about helping governance and security and so on. The seven people may be very able, and I do not doubt their abilities or their intentions in any way, but really, what can they do? Is this not about Ireland playing the role of a complicit and obliging follower of the United States? It has been said that it may not be a coincidence that Ireland's involvement was linked with the re-emergence of our beef onto the American market. Is it the case that we are being rewarded for showing our compliance? The reality is that seven people cannot play that role, and seven people will not undo the devastation and destruction of 13 years of rape, pillage and instability in that country, no matter how good they are.

With respect, I think the Deputy knows that this has nothing to do with access to the US market for Irish beef. Our participation is a conscious decision by Ireland to try to play a constructive role in rebuilding a country that needs help, quite frankly, and it is getting that help from many other countries in a non-combat mission. It is trying to put itself back together. We have specific expertise in a number of areas, which is recognised internationally. I refer in particular to expertise in counter-IED training, which is a big problem in Afghanistan. As a result of the conflicts, there are explosives everywhere. We have specific expertise in that regard as a result of our peacekeeping experience and our experience in training. We are offering valuable support to the overall Resolute Support mission, even if it is only seven people.

It is not just my opinion that this is the right thing to do; the UN has also said so. The international community has accepted that Resolute Support makes sense and they want to see it working. Ireland is part of the mission for now. Obviously we will keep our participation under review and we will make a decision at the end of the year as to whether we will maintain a presence there.