Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Questions (91)

Trevor Sargent


148 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Defence his views on the Chief of Staff’s statement that the Irish Defence Forces are increasingly becoming involved in more complex and robust missions overseas; the implications of this for military expenditure and Ireland’s peace keeping reputation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8931/07]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

The article to which the Deputy is referring is the report of an interview with the Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lt General Jim Sreenan, which appeared in The Irish Times on 27 December, 2006.

The interview was wide ranging and the Chief of Staff gave his views on a number of current matters of interest to the Defence Forces including the Defence Forces current overseas commitments and the changing nature of the work being undertaken by the Defence Forces on such missions.

The nature of peacekeeping operations is changing from traditional UN led "Blue Hat" missions to regionally-led peace operations with the onus being placed on regional states to organise and assemble peacekeeping troops for the purpose of discharging a UN Mandate. In addition, the UN is increasingly authorising missions under Chapter VII of the Charter. Chapter VII of the UN Charter provides for the authorisation by the UN Security Council of more robust peace enforcement missions. In concert with a military component, many missions also now include political, economic, and rule of law elements as part of the overall mission tasking, requiring increased co-ordination between military and civil elements in the mission area.

The Defence Forces have shown the capacity and experience to respond to the changing nature of peace support operations. The Defence Forces have participated effectively in UN-authorised NATO-led missions in Kosovo (KFOR), in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) and in Afghanistan (ISAF) and in EU-led missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Operation Althea) and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Operation Artemis). In parallel, Ireland has also continued to participate in UN-led missions in UNIFIL and UNMIL.

In recent years, there has been extensive investment in the training of Defence Forces personnel and in the procurement of new equipment. This programme of investment has been vitally important in supporting Defence Forces contingents to meet the complex demands of modern peace support operations. In addition, the investment will support, on an on-going basis, increased interoperability with other forces deployed on peace support missions.