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Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, T.D.,
Reviews Irish Troops heading to Syria
Stephens Barracks, Kilkenny.

10th March 2014.

Today, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, T.D., reviewed the members of the 44th Infantry Group who will leave later this month for service with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Syria.

Speaking during the Review, the Minister said:
“For over half a century now, our Defence Forces have played a vital role as peacekeepers throughout the world. We have an honourable tradition of supporting the United Nations in the cause of peace and security.” The Minister commented on the conflict in Syria in the past year and how it has affected the UNDOF area of operations significantly.

The Minister went on to say “The continued support of troop contributing countries such as Ireland to the UNDOF mission is vital to allow the mission to continue the implementation of its mandate in a safe and secure manner. Helping to maintain the 40 year old ceasefire between Israel and Syria represents an important contribution to preventing further instability in the region.” Commenting on the tragic humanitarian crisis in Syria the Minister said “It is estimated that over 130,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war and there are over 2 million refugees from Syria in neighbouring countries. We also know that major difficulties have been experienced in providing food and medical aid to civilians in Syria trapped in the conflict”. The Minister referred to the assistance that Ireland has provided to date to support the Syrian people by saying “In 2013, Ireland provided €11.3m in humanitarian assistance and €2.65 million in 2012. Ireland’s additional pledge of €12 million brings our overall commitment from 2011 to 2014 to over €26m. Funds have been provided to a range of established UN partners as well as to Irish Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). In addition, arrangements have been made to receive in this State some refugees from Syria and, as Minister for Justice, I am presently developing some additional such arrangements”

He further stated that, “Ireland’s record of service in UN authorised peace support operations is second to none. We have made, and continue to make, a significant contribution to such operations throughout the world.”

The Irish contingent, comprising some 130 personnel, will replace personnel of the 43rd Infantry Group who will shortly complete their tour of duty. Personnel of the 44th Infantry Group will be based in the Golan Heights area of southwestern Syria and will be tasked primarily to serve as an independent Force Mobile Reserve within the UNDOF Area of Responsibility.

Noting that no mission is without its dangers, the Minister assured the troops “it is the policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel serving overseas are appropriately trained and equipped with the most modern and effective equipment to carry out their mission, as well as providing the required protection specific to the mission. The Minister added “I am satisfied that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel serving with UNDOF and UNIFIL.”


Note to Editor

On 1 July 2013, Ireland received a request from the United Nations to consider contributing to UNDOF a Mechanised Infantry Company for the tasks of a Force Mobile Reserve. The Defence Forces have previous experience in a similar role in Liberia and Lebanon.

Following Government and Dáil approval, the first Irish Infantry Group (the 43rd) deployed successfully to UNDOF on 28 September 2013. Four (4) Defence Forces personnel had been deployed earlier in 2013 to the UNDOF mission headquarters at Camp Faouar in the Golan Heights.

The mandate of the UNDOF mission was recently renewed under UN Security Council Resolution 2131 (2013) for a further period of six months up to and including 30 June 2014.

UNDOF is assisted by over eighty (80) military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation’s (UNTSO) Observer Group Golan, with seven (7) Irish Officers. An Irish officer, Major General Michael Finn, is Head of Mission and Chief of Staff of UNTSO.

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