I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 68 together.
The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) are the Special Operations Forces of the Defence Forces. In this context, the ARW are trained and equipped to undertake a range of specialist roles. They are an elite military unit and their capability is a significant asset to the State both in a domestic national security role and in an overseas role.
The ARW is part and parcel of the capabilities available to the State to be deployed in support of our national security and overseas peace support operations. They are deployed overseas to UN peacekeeping missions in accordance with the provisions of the Defence Acts and their deployment is covered by the same legislative provisions as apply to the rest of the Permanent Defence Force. The statutory authority for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas is set out in Section 2 of the Defence (Amendment) (No.2) Act, 1960 as amended by the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006. The ARW have previously been deployed on UN mandated peacekeeping operations including, in what was then East Timor with INTERFET, in Liberia with UNMIL and in Chad with EUFOR tChad/RCA where their particular skill set has been required.
MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali is a authorised under Chapter VII of the UN Charter by the UN Security Council. It is a significant UN peace enforcement mission comprising both regular and special operations forces and high end capabilities. The option to deploy a small contingent of Army Ranger Wing personnel to MINUSMA as part of a larger Special Operations Forces within the mission later this year has arisen.
Ireland currently has no Defence Forces personnel deployed to the UN mandated MINUSMA mission. However, potential overseas missions are considered on an on-going basis. The Department and the Defence Forces are in the very early information gathering stage in considering this particular mission. This involves getting detailed information on the mission and its operations, consideration of the possible role which the Defence Forces may be able to undertake in the mission, how such a deployment fits with Defence Forces capabilities having regard to existing and potential commitments at home and overseas and a detailed threat analysis and assessment. This process has only just commenced and will take a period of time to reach a conclusion. On foot of the respective military and policy advice arising from this process, I will then consider the matter. I should emphasise again that no decision has been taken yet and there is some way to go in the process before we reach that point.