Thursday, 7 February 2013

Ceisteanna (9, 30)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

9. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Defence his plans for Irish military personnel to join any upcoming EU battle groups or military missions to Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6078/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Halligan

Ceist:

30. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Defence his plans for Irish military personnel to join any upcoming EU battle groups or military missions to Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6079/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (11 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 30 together.

Two invitations have been received by Ireland to participate in future EU battle groups. One invitation has been received to participate in the Nordic battle group 2015, together with Sweden acting as framework nation, Finland, Norway and Estonia. The second force generation conference was held in Sweden in early December 2012. The proposed contribution to this battle group will be a reconnaissance company with associated HQ staff appointments and supporting elements. The model envisaged for the battle group gives command of a multinational reconnaissance group HQ to Ireland, resulting in a raised profile.

The second invitation received is to participate in the EU battle group 2016, with Germany acting as framework nation, Luxembourg, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Discussions are ongoing with the participants on Ireland's potential contribution to this battle group. Any participation by Ireland in the Nordic and EU battle groups in 2015 and 2016 will be subject to formal Government approval at the appropriate time.

Separate from battle group participation, Ireland has received an invitation to participate in the European Union training mission in Mali, EUTM Mali, which will provide military training and advice to the Malian armed forces to improve their military capacity and their effectiveness in guaranteeing the country's territorial integrity. I have already addressed the question of possible Defence Force participation in EUTM Mali. While Ireland is positively disposed towards this mission, no decision has yet been made. Any decision on participation will be a matter ultimately to be determined by government.

Perhaps it was an innocent mistake on the Minister's part, but the reference in the question was to our military involvement in Africa. It is worth saying, and I have a later question which we probably will not reach, that there is an alarming drift towards greater involvement by this country since the Government has come into office in military affairs and supporting a militarist agenda, including, for example, the invitation to NATO's deputy assistant secretary general for political affairs and security policy to address a defence seminar as part of one of the first events in the EU Presidency. It was not mentioned that he is linked to NATO; mention was made of the UN and the EU, but he is one of the main spokespeople for NATO. This is indicative of the alarming closer synergy and relationship between NATO and the European Union which is not being acknowledged. It was not mentioned when he was speaking.

It is in this context that we are concerned about so-called humanitarian missions which are often sold as humanitarian but involved in these missions are states and powers - in the case of Mali it is France and in the case of Africa generally it is the United States - who have interests and who tend to be extremely selective in what dictatorships and terrorists they oppose and which Islamic extremists they find problematic and which others they do not find quite so problematic. It is not invention or conspiracy on our part. President Jimmy Carter's main military adviser and his foreign secretary, Brzezinski, wrote a book in which he outlined in detail how the Carter Administration backed the Taliban and the establishment of what later became al-Qaeda, because it suited it in the strategic battle during the Cold War against the Soviet Union. As he put it, what is stirring up a few mullahs compared to the defeat of the Soviet empire. I put it to the Minister that the same carry on is going on in Mali and Africa generally, and a neutral country such as Ireland should not even consider being involved in this type of intervention.

The Deputy really does have an awful lot of bogeymen in his head.

Did Brzezinski not say that?

I will deal with the only issue of substance the Deputy raised. As part of Ireland's Presidency of the EU Council in 2013 a seminar was organised to discuss and examine how more effective co-operation and the building of partnerships across regional organisations and between these organisations and the United Nations could be fostered. This was undertaken to enhance the effectiveness of UN mandated peacekeeping operations, something I regard as being of particular importance. A wide range of speakers-----

Why was James Appathurai there?

I do not know whether the Deputy wants me to reply.

A wide range of speakers was invited to attend the seminar, including from the European Union, the United Nations, the African Union, NATO and academia. Close co-operation between NATO and the United Nations and its agencies is an important element in the development of an international comprehensive approach to crisis management and operations.

It is important to note UN Security Council resolutions have provided the mandate for NATO's operations in the western Balkans and Afghanistan in which Ireland participated. More recently, NATO's operation to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya in 2011 was carried out in support of UN Security Council resolution 1973. NATO has also provided support to UN sponsored operations including logistical assistance; the African Union's UN endorsed peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Sudan and Somalia; support for UN disaster relief operations in Pakistan following the massive earthquake in 2005; and escorting merchant ships carrying World Food Programme humanitarian supplies off the coast of Somalia. It might come as some surprise to the Deputy that NATO is an organisation which is quite different now and has evolved from the one he would have probably disliked because he would have favoured the Soviet Union in those days.

I never favoured the Soviet Union.

Like the EU and the African Union, NATO shares a commitment with the United Nations to maintaining international peace and security. The two organisations have been co-operating in this area since the early 1990s, which the Deputy seems to have missed. In view of this, I decided to invite a speaker to provide the discussion with the view from NATO and how it actively enhanced co-operation with the United Nations. Without the attendance of a representative from NATO, the debate and those attending would have missed an opportunity to hear first hand the views of the organisation. I spoke at the opening of the seminar and I attended and listened to a number of sessions.

I am of the view that the attendance of all the regional organisations including NATO was very worthwhile. Attendees heard the full range of views of the organisations concerned and how these organisations can enhance their co-operation in engaging in UN missions in the interests of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.

Bang goes our neutrality.

The debate has come to a close. I thank the Minister and Members for their questions and answers. I also thank the staff of the Houses.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.
The Dáil adjourned at 7.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 8 February 2013.