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Irish Defence Forces personnel to deploy to Mali as part of a joint infantry training team with the UK Armed Forces

The Minister for Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D. announced today that he proposes to seek the approval of the Government for participation by the Defence Forces in the planned EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) as part of a joint training contingent with the United Kingdom armed forces. The EU mission to Mali will be responsible for providing the Malian Armed Forces with military training and advice in order to improve their capacity to maintain security in Mali and restore the authority of the Malian Government and the territorial integrity of the Malian State. The Minister stated that “Alongside standard infantry training, training will also be provided in international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians and human rights”. The EU training mission in Mali is provided for in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2071.

Planning for the operation has been ongoing at EU level for some weeks now and Ireland has been engaged in discussions with EU partners on a possible contribution by the Defence Forces to the mission. “Both myself and my colleague, the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D., have been following this issue very closely and we have been strongly supportive of this EU mission to Mali from the outset”, the Minister said. “I am glad to say that, following my meeting with Mr Andrew Murrison MP, the Minister for International Security Strategy at the UK Ministry of Defence, and subject to formal Government approval, the United Kingdom and Ireland will provide a joint Infantry Training Team to the proposed EU Training Mission in Mali. Our contribution to this mission will be similar to that provided to EUTM Somalia where we provide a joint training team alongside Malta”.

In total, approximately 200 military training personnel will be deployed as part of the EU training mission in Mali. Four Infantry Training teams each comprising twenty four (24) military trainers will be provided within the mission. France will provide two of the training teams. A number of Nordic countries will provide a team and the UK and Ireland will now also provide a team. Ireland expects to contribute six to eight members of the Defence Forces to the Mission. It is expected that the mission, including the force protection element will comprise some 500 military personnel in total. The training mission is expected to be fully deployed by Mid March with training commencing at the beginning of April. The training mission will not be involved in operations conducted by the Malian Forces.

While Ireland and UK forces have worked together in different theatres and operations over many years, including on UN Blue Hat operations, EU-led operations and NATO-led Operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan, this will be the first time a joint UK/Irish military contingent has been deployed on any such operation. The Minister went on to say, “I believe that the provision of a joint UK/Ireland contingent is another step in the normalisation of relations between our two countries. In that sense it is a historic step and provides a tangible manifestation of the very positive relationship and the mutual respect that now exists between our countries. The fact that this first joint deployment is to a peacekeeping operation under a United Nations Mandate and unanimously endorsed by the European Union is also very pertinent in our historical context and reflects our joint commitment to international peace and security under the aegis of the United Nations”.

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