That Dáil Éireann approves Ireland's accession to the Memorandum of Understanding concerning the principles for the establishment and operation of a battle group to be made available to the European Union in the second half of the year 2020.
In its decision of 6 February 2018, the Government agreed to provide a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force, PDF, to participate in the German-led EU battle group 2020, which will be on standby for six months from July 2020. The motion before the House is to approve the memorandum of understanding, MOU, agreed among the battle group participants arising from that decision.
The MOU relates solely to the administrative and technical arrangements for the operation of the battle group. Any decision on a deployment of the proposed Defence Forces contingent on a battle group operation will require a further decision of Dáil Éireann in accordance with the provisions of the Defence Acts.
Based on advice from the Office of the Attorney General, this MOU is not subject to approval by the Dáil. However, I previously gave a commitment, which I stand by, to bring the memorandum before the Dáil, with due respect for transparency and the role of the House.
In commending the motion, I would like to outline the background to Ireland's participation in this EU battle group which will be led by Germany. The EU aims to be able to respond rapidly to emerging crises as and when they occur. The purpose of the EU battle groups is to meet this objective and undertake operations as outlined in the Treaty on the European Union. These operations, known as the Petersberg Tasks, which were further expanded in the Lisbon treaty, include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking and peacebuilding, joint disarmament operations, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and post-conflict stabilisation.
Ireland has worked to uphold the primacy of the role of the United Nations Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security. This commitment has found expression in Ireland's long-standing tradition of participation in UN peacekeeping, peace enforcement and crisis management operations, and our efforts at EU level to enhance EU-UN co-operation. Participation in EU battle groups represents another means for Ireland to express its commitment to the UN and its principles. In this regard, Members will recall that successive Secretaries General of the UN have endorsed the EU battle group concept and have encouraged and advocated for Ireland's participation in battle groups that could act in support of UN operations.
The Defence Forces contribution to this battle group will involve a special operations task group comprising a special operations forces platoon, engineer special search capability, explosive ordnance disposal, EOD, capability and a security platoon together with staff posts at force headquarters. The total number of Defence Forces personnel involved in this battle group will be approximately 150. This level of resource commitment will only arise should the battle group be deployed to undertake an operation and should Ireland agree to participate. The Defence Forces commitment leading up to and during the standby period, where the battle group has not been mobilised to undertake an operation will amount to ten personnel deployed to the battle group force headquarters in Germany.
The German battle group MOU is an agreement between the participants comprising the battle group, namely Germany, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Latvia and the Netherlands. This agreement sets out principles on the operation, deployment and management of the German battle group. The text of this agreement was laid in the Oireachtas Library in advance of our debate today. Its terms are similar to those that Ireland has previously acceded to for the 2016 German battle group.
Each individual battle group participant retains the right to deploy or not to deploy its forces, irrespective of an EU decision to launch a battle group operation. In Ireland's case, the triple lock requirement for the deployment of the Defence Forces contingent will remain unaffected by its accession to this memorandum of understanding.
Ireland's participation in battle groups supports the development of rapid deployment skills and capabilities within the Defence Forces. It enhances Ireland’s credibility as a provider of professional and effective military forces for crisis management operations. It reinforces our standing and capacity to influence the ongoing development of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy in support of international peace and security and the UN.