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Minister for Defence, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D.,
secures Government approval for the Deployment of a Naval Vessel to Assist in the Humanitarian Crisis in the Mediterranean

The Government at today’s meeting (12th May 2015) approved a proposal from the Minister for Defence, Mr. Simon Conveney, T.D. for the despatch of an Irish Naval vessel with a crew comprising approximately sixty-five (65) personnel of the Permanent Defence Force to undertake humanitarian search and rescue tasks in the Mediterranean, subject to finalisation of appropriate arrangements with the Italian authorities.

Following the Government Decision the Minister commented “subject to finalisation of arrangements with the Italian authorities, the LE Eithne will be despatched to the Mediterranean without any delay. Operational and logistics planning for the deployment have been completed and the Vessel is ready to deploy. The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean is of great concern to Ireland and to our EU partners. I am anxious that we commence search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean as soon as it is feasible to do so”.

The Minister went on to say that “discussions are at an advanced stage with the Italian authorities on arrangements covering a number of issues relating to the deployment of the Vessel. I expect that the Ship should depart the Naval Base in Haulbowline on Saturday, subject to confirmation of the proposed arrangements by the relevant Italian authorities”.

Ireland will deploy the Naval Vessel to the Mediterranean for a period of up to six months over the summer period, subject to the operational demands and requirements arising in the theatre of operations, to assist the Italian authorities in the humanitarian search and rescue operations.

The Minister highlighted the Government’s commitment to continuing Ireland’s strong tradition of peacekeeping and stated that “the proposed deployment of an Irish Naval Service vessel to the Mediterranean will bring the number of Defence Forces personnel deployed overseas to approximately 500 Irish personnel.”


Note to Editor

Since January 2015, it is estimated that the crisis in the Mediterranean has claimed the lives of over 1,700 refugees and migrants. During the past four months alone, some 40,000 people made crossings to Italy and Greece.

The Taoiseach attended a special meeting of the European Council on 23 April 2015 convened to discuss the evolving situation in the Mediterranean. At that meeting, the Taoiseach stated that Ireland would provide assistance, including the sending of a Naval Vessel on a humanitarian mission to assist in the emergency.

The statutory authority for the despatch of a contingent or member of the Permanent Defence Force for humanitarian operations, under the authority of the Government, is set out in section 3 (1) (f) of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006. The legal provisions in relation to the deployment of a Naval Vessel are limited to a deployment on a humanitarian mission.

The role of the Irish Naval vessel will be to provide a search and rescue capability and to undertake humanitarian rescue operations at sea in the Mediterranean. Assistance to persons in distress at sea will be provided in accordance with the applicable provisions of international conventions governing search and rescue situations.

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