Thursday, 8 October 2020

Ceisteanna (54)

Mark Ward

Ceist:

54. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Defence the provisions in place for Defence Forces personnel who will be serving overseas with the United Nations for a minimum of six months to receive leave to return home during this time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28897/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The leave that may be granted to Defence Forces personnel when on service outside the State with an International United Nations Force, is subject to the UN regulation governing that Force and is therefore at the discretion and direction of the UN.

As such, different annual leave arrangements can apply to different mission areas, depending on specific mission Standard Operating Procedures. Considerations such as security and operational and logistical concerns that pertain to that mission area and surrounding territories are taken into account.

On 5 April last, the Deputy will recall that the UN Secretary General set out in clear terms the crisis facing the world stemming from the Covid 19 pandemic. He directed a series of measures be put in place to mitigate any transmission of the disease. This included the suspension of all rotations and leave for military personnel serving in UN missions. The suspension was based on the protection of local communities as well as that of the peacekeepers.

However, as a result of engagement by the Department of Defence and the Department Foreign Affairs and Trade with the UN in the mission areas and at UN Headquarters, though both informal and formal contacts, Ireland successfully secured an exemption and was granted approval for rotations during the UN moratorium.

Further to the range of measures announced last April, the UN Secretary General has recently advised that transitional arrangements will apply in the following six month period, July to December 2020, which will include a partial resumption of rotations with rigorous quarantine requirements and periodic reviews built into the process.

The range of measures, together with national guidelines, mean that it is not possible therefore, to put leave arrangements in place during tours of duty to certain mission areas.

In such cases, I’m advised by the Military Authorities that Defence Forces personnel are informed prior to deployment, and kept abreast of any new guidance throughout their tour and I also understand that Mission Leave is being granted at the end of a tour to those troops who have not been in a position to avail of UN regulated leave during their deployment.

The matter remains under review for each mission in the light of the prevailing public health guidelines and mission rules.