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Minister for Defence, Mr Simon Coveney T.D. welcomes joint initiative between Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Defence on support for United Nations Peacekeeping in Africa

The Minister for Defence, Mr Simon Coveney T.D., has welcomed the joint initiative between Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Defence on support for United Nations Peacekeeping in Africa. The Minister was speaking following his attendance with the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the summit on “Strengthening United Nations Peace Operations” in New York and at which Ireland announced a new initiative to support peacekeeper training in a number of Irish Aid programme countries. The Minister was also in New York for discussions on the UNDOF mission.

The Irish Government’s training programme will draw on the widely acknowledged expertise acquired by Irish peacekeepers over half a century on UN operations and in EU training missions in Mali and Somalia. Under the joint initiative the Department of Foreign Affairs will provide the funding to support the Department of Defence and the Irish Defence Forces to provide the training capacity.

The Minister noted that “The basis of this initiative has been under consideration in my Department for some time and I am glad to say that this peacekeeping summit has provided the focus to bring it to fruition. The Irish Defence Forces have huge experience of peacekeeping across the world but most particularly in the Middle East and Africa, working with the UN, the EU and with a wide range of partner countries in Africa and more widely. They also have extensive experience of training peacekeepers in theatre such as in Mali and Somalia, but also through courses in the Defence Forces Training College and the UN School, both in the Curragh”.

Potential areas of training, under the Irish Government programme proposal, include leadership training, at the tactical and operational level, with a particular focus on officers and NCOs. Such training would also include a focus on protection of civilians and on crosscutting areas such as gender sensitivity, human rights and broader cultural awareness. There are also niche areas in which Ireland has specific expertise, such as training in countering improvised explosive device and military police training.

“We envisage providing high-quality training over a number of years to develop and enhance the range of skills required for effective peacekeeping in a range of Irish Aid Programme countries. However, as a first step, we need to work closely with the partner countries to establish the areas where they need assistance, so as to identify where the Defence Forces can then make the greatest contribution across the full range of peacekeeping skills”, the Minister said.

The Minister went on to say that: “The ongoing and emerging conflicts and tensions in the Middle East, Africa, Central America and elsewhere ensure a continuing demand for UN peacekeepers. I believe that, with the Defence Forces extensive experience and utilising the infrastructure we have in the Curragh and in the National Maritime College Ireland where we train the Naval Service, Ireland and our Defence Forces have a unique opportunity to contribute to an effective and sustainable programme of UN peacekeeper training across all facets of peacekeeping”.

In conclusion the Minister said: “This is a really good example of joined up Government with the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade working together to deliver on key Governmental initiatives and I want to thank Minister Flanagan for his role in making the project happen”.

ENDS



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