Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Ceisteanna (72, 73, 74, 75)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

100 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish soldiers travelling to Liberia on the 16 May 2006 on peace keeping duties; the nature of their duties; the other countries in which Irish soldiers are engaged in peace keeping duties under the UN mandate; the number of soldiers involved in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17200/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

122 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence the situation with respect to Irish troops serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17157/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Gormley

Ceist:

123 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding Irish troops serving with UNMIL in Liberia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17177/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

129 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an assessment of the security situation in Liberia; his views on whether the situation necessitates the extension of involvement of Irish troops in the UNMIL mission beyond the November 2006 withdrawal date; if further consultations have been held with the UN Secretary General on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17217/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 122, 123 and 129 together.

Ireland is currently contributing approximately 765 Defence Forces personnel to 19 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the following tabular statement.

The main commitments are to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), with 422 personnel, to the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo, with 213 personnel and to EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 60 personnel.

Ireland has participated in UNMIL since December 2003 following a decision of the Government on 24 June, 2003, and the subsequent approval by Dáil Éireann of the necessary enabling motion. Since then, the UN Security Council has authorised the continuation of UNMIL for successive periods and the Government have approved continued Irish participation.

Ireland, together with an Infantry Company Group from Sweden, provides the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to the UNMIL Force Commander. The Irish contingent currently comprises 422 personnel. The role of the QRF is to respond rapidly to any crises that arise within the area of operations and support other UNMIL deployed contingents, including through long-range patrols into the countryside. While it has been a difficult mission, particularly in terms of the operating environment, it is working very well for the Defence Forces.

In December 2005, Ireland agreed to a request from the UN for support in expanding the area of operations of UNMIL to include Sierra Leone, as authorised under UN Security Resolution 1626 of 19 September, 2005, and in particular to allow Irish troops to be made available for extraction operations should there be a requirement to evacuate the staff and detainees of the Special Court of Sierra Leone in Freetown. The Irish contingent assumed its additional responsibilities in late December 2005 following Dáil approval on 15 December, 2005. UNMIL is currently providing a permanent guard of 250 personnel of the Mongolian contingent at the Special Court.

In addition to conducting normal patrolling and security operations in Liberia, the Irish contingent currently conducts limited operations in Freetown, Sierra Leone in support of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Since 30 March, 2006, a small detachment of the QRF, including both Irish and Swedish troops, have been deployed to Freetown, prepared to support the security of the Special Court, if necessary.

The current Irish commitment to UNMIL is until November 2006, when we are due to withdraw from the mission together with our Swedish partners. In a letter to An Taoiseach on 3 March, 2006, the UN Secretary-General requested Ireland to consider postponing the withdrawal of its troops from UNMIL for a period of at least six months, in order to give the UN time to find a suitable replacement for the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) capability. This request is currently under consideration.

Our current assessment is that the security situation in Liberia, while continuing to be fragile, is stable and progressing positively. We are also of the view that the remaining forces should be well capable of handling the ongoing security situation generally.

That said, I can assure the House that Ireland remains committed to Peace Support Operations in Africa under a UN flag. Detailed consultations have taken place with the UN including at a high level meeting at UN Headquarters in New York on 24 April involving representatives of my Department, the Defence Forces and our Ambassador to the UN. We are now in the process of finalising our consideration in the matter in light of these discussions. I am confident that we will be able to respond positively to the Secretary General's request for one further 6 month extension to May, 2007, whereupon we will then withdraw the contingent. I am advised that the UN is actively engaged in efforts to find a suitable replacement for the capability provided by the Irish/Swedish contingent and that the period to May 2007 will enable them to complete this process.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force serving Overseas as of 01 May, 2006

1. UN Missions

(i)UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon)

5

(ii)UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) — Israel, Syria and Lebanon

13

(iii)MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

4

(iv)UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo)

4

(v)MONUC (United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo)

3

(vi)UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

(vii)UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) FHQ

6

UNMIL 94th Inf Bn

416

TOTAL

453

UN Mandated Missions

(viii)EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

60

(ix)KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo)

213

(x)ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

733

2. EU Missions

(i)European Union Monitor Mission (EUMM) to the former Yugoslavia

5

(ii)EU support to UN authorised African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS)

3

(iii)ACEH Monitoring Mission (AMM)

1

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH EU MISSIONS

9

3. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

(i)OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

1

(ii)OSCE Mission in Montenegro

1

(iii)OSCE Presence in Albania

2

(iv)OSCE Mission in FRY

2

(v)OSCE Mission in Georgia

1

(vi)Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

8

4. Head of Military Staff (Brussels)

1

5. EU Military Staff (Brussels)

4

6. EU Military Staff (New York)

1

7. Liaison Office of Ireland, PfP (Brussels)

2

8. Permanent Representative to EU (Brussels)

3

9. Military Representatives/ Advisers

(i)Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

(ii)Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

(iii)Military Representative to Partnership Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

1

10. Appointments — UN HQ (New York)

(iii) Officer seconded to DPKO (Department of Peace Keeping Operations)

1

TOTAL NUMBER DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS

765