Troop Deployment: Announcement by Minister of State

I advise the House that there has been a delay in the rotation of Defence Forces personnel serving with UNDOF. It will result in a delay for 119 personnel who are returning home to Ireland. Following receipt of the required diplomatic clearance for the flight to rotate the Defence Forces contingent with UNDOF on Tuesday, 2 October, an issue arose unexpectedly on Monday morning with the clearance. Every effort was made by the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade to address the issue, but it could not be resolved within the time necessary to allow completion of the rotation on schedule on Tuesday. As soon as this was known, the personnel involved and their families were contacted and advised of the issue and the postponement of the rotation. I have been in direct contact with the honorary consul general in Beirut, Mr. Georges Siam, to try to resolve the issue.

The rotation of contingents is co-ordinated across UNDOF missions so as to maintain appropriate forces on the ground in support of missions. In addition, rotation flights through Beirut are confined to certain days and times. As such, there are limited windows during which we can rotate the Defence Forces contingent. Given these constraints, the necessary timelines to secure diplomatic clearance and the primacy of ensuring safe and secure transit through Syria and Lebanon for the rotating contingents, it is now planned to rotate the contingents on Monday, 15 October. It is expected that the personnel returning to their families will arrive in Ireland on Tuesday, 16 October.

I am acutely aware of the impact the unfortunate delay in the rotation of the personnel serving with UNDOF is having on the 119 personnel who are due to return home and their families, for which I apologise. Every effort possible is being made across the Defence Forces organisation, the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the embassy in Cairo to address the issue and ensure the safe and secure return of the personnel as soon as possible. The allowances due to personnel while serving overseas will continue to be paid and their 30-day post-deployment leave entitlements will only commence from their date of return. Additionally, I have taken the decision that the personnel who have been delayed in returning home will receive an ex gratia payment of €1,000 in recognition of the disruption cause to them and, more specifically, their families.