I propose to take Questions Nos. 35, 47 and 58 together.
EU battle groups are designed to give the EU a rapid response capability which can be deployed in support of crisis management or humanitarian operations under the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy and in support of UN-mandated missions. Battle groups are designed to have the capacity to deploy within five to ten days of a Council decision and to be deployed for 30 days, extendible to 120 days. The UN strongly supports the development of EU battle groups as a capability that could be made available in support of UN-mandated missions. It supports the development of rapid deployment skills and capabilities in the Defence Forces, together with improved interoperability with like-minded states. Ireland's participation in EU battle groups supports Defence Forces capability development and interoperability and demonstrates Ireland’s commitment to the development of EU crisis management capabilities.
Ireland's continuing active engagement in EU battle groups enhances our capacity to influence the ongoing development and evolution of the EU's rapid response capacity. I refer particularly to the role battle groups can play in reinforcing UN operations. Participation in EU battle groups supports Ireland’s international security and defence policy and enhances our bilateral relations with other contributing member states. Ireland has participated in EU battle groups on a number of occasions, commencing with the Nordic battle group in 2008. Ireland participated in the German battle group in 2012 and 2016. On 6 February last, the Government approved Ireland's participation in the German-led EU battle group 2020, which will be on standby for the second six months of 2020.
The proposed Defence Forces contribution to the German battle group will involve a special operations task group. The group will comprise a special operations forces platoon - Army ranger wing, engineer specialist search capability, explosive ordnance disposal, EOD, capability, and a security platoon together with staff posts at both the operational and force headquarters. The exact numbers and composition of Ireland's participation remains to be finalised and is a matter of ongoing discussion with battle group partners. The total number of Defence Forces personnel expected to be involved will be approximately 148, which has yet to be decided upon. However, this level of resource commitment will only arise should the battle group be called on to undertake an operation and should Ireland agree to participate. The battle group will also involve Ireland’s participation in a joint field exercise-manoeuvre training of all the German battle group elements, which is planned to take place in Germany in early 2020.
The Government decision to participate in the 2020 battle group does not presume any future decision on deploying the Defence Forces on an actual battle group operation. Ireland's participation in an actual battle group operation would, as always, be subject to the usual triple lock requirements of a UN mandate and Government and Dáil approval, as appropriate, in accordance with the Defence Forces Acts. Ireland continues to retain the absolute right to determine for itself, on a case-by-case basis, whether it will participate in any particular battle group operation.
Discussions are ongoing on the battle group memorandum of understanding, MOU, which is an agreement between the participants comprising the battle group, namely, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Croatia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This sets out principles regarding the operation, deployment and management of the German-led battle group. While the advice to me is that Dáil approval of the MOU is not required, in the interest of transparency, I have decided to proceed on the basis of a voluntary invocation of the procedure under Article 29 of the Constitution and to seek the approval of Dáil Éireann for the MOU once it is finalised.