Thursday, 11 July 2019

Questions (51)

Jack Chambers


51. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the review of the contribution of Ireland to UNSAS and the EU headline goal as outlined in the White Paper on Defence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30534/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The White Paper on Defence, published in August 2015, contains a commitment to carry out a review of Ireland's declared contribution to the United Nations Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS) and the EU Headline Goal in light of the changing security environment and the on-going modernisation and transformation of Defence Forces capabilities.  The review is also to consider the potential deployability of the full range of Defence Forces' capabilities including Army, Air Corps and Naval Service capabilities and assets on peace support and crisis management operations.

The specific actions contained in the White Paper are being carried out on a phased basis over the period of the White Paper.  Implementation on a phased basis is necessary in order to reflect  Programme for Partnership Government and Strategy Statement commitments, the related nature of some projects and resourcing implications.  This process is being kept under review and is subject to change as issues arise or other business dictates.

The review as envisaged in the 2015 White Paper on Defence has to a certain extent been overtaken by events.  Since publication of the White Paper, the UN has replaced UNSAS with the Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS).  PCRS is a new system for troop contributing countries to declare capabilities, over and above those already deployed, which a country would be prepared to make available to UN peacekeeping operations on request. The purpose of this system is to provide the UN with a dynamic up to date catalogue of trained and available forces to draw from when establishing or reinforcing a UN mission.  

Ireland has pledged personnel and equipment capabilities under PCRS.  In addition, in response to current and emerging uniformed capability requirements for UN peacekeeping, Ireland has pledged and delivered training in Ireland and overseas, for troop contributing country personnel deploying to UN missions.

Since the White Paper was published, we have also had an actual Naval Service deployment on an overseas operation.  Between 2015 and 2017, the Naval Service deployed ships to 'Operation Pontus', a humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean, and between 2017 and 2018, the Naval Service participated in the EU mission, EUNAVFORMED, Operation Sophia also in the Mediterranean, which was primarily a security and surveillance mission. 

Given current priorities, the finalisation of this project has been deferred to allow us to bed in the new UN PCRS system and also respond to the UN priorities for peacekeeping training where we are actively engaged in supporting Troop Contributing Countries in the Sahel as an additional tasking.  The changing nature of demands and potential future mission profiles will also need to be considered in the context of the assets and capabilities which can be made available by the Defence Forces for overseas deployment, given existing operational demands at home and overseas.