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Defence Forces Personnel to assist in Ireland's Response to the Ebola Crisis in West Africa - Minister for Defence, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D. and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade announce


Three members of the Irish Defence Forces are to deploy to Sierra Leone to reinforce Ireland’s capacity in Sierra Leone as the international relief effort ramps up, the Ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade today announced.

The three personnel, all of whom have vast collective experience in West Africa, will be deployed to the Embassy of Ireland in Freetown under the Emergency Civilian Assistance Team initiative, established by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to respond to international crises.

As one of a small number of countries with an embassy in Freetown, Ireland has been very active in working with our local and international partners to fight the ebola epidemic and the Defence Forces deployment will bring key technical skills which will enhance the mission’s ability to respond.

Their role will include reviewing and enhancing the embassy's contingency plans for security-related events and providing advice and support in logistics and emergency planning. They will not be working directly on the frontline of the ebola response.

The Minister for Defence also advised the Government that consideration is being given to the deployment of members of the Permanent Defence Force to be embedded as part of a UK Armed Forces Treatment Unit in Kerrytown, Sierra Leone. The facility provides UK standard Ebola Virus Disease treatment to International Healthcare Workers who are providing care to the Sierra Leone population.

Discussions are continuing between the Irish and UK authorities in order to determine the roles that may be assigned to the Irish personnel and to establish if the appropriate clinical competencies are available within the Defence Forces.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Minister Flanagan said: “The deployment of Defence Forces personnel to the embassy in Sierra Leone is a clear example of the whole of government approach required to fight this dreadful disease. By bringing field experience in areas such as emergency planning and response, logistics and risk mitigation, those deployed will add a significant new dimension to the Ireland’s contribution.”

Minister Coveney said: “Irish Defence Forces personnel have a sterling record of service in support of humanitarian crisis across the globe. Working in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the ECAT initiative, and possibly with the UK Armed Forces, these soldiers will bring a wealth of experience that enhances Ireland's support to the people of Sierra Leone."

It is expected that the Defence Forces personnel assigned to the Embassy of Ireland in Freetown, will depart for Sierra Leone in the coming days. In partnership with our Embassy, the HSE and other Irish staff working for international and Irish NGOs, they again demonstrate clearly the long standing commitment of the Irish people to assisting the most vulnerable communities overseas.

Minister Coveney also said that "the request received from Irish Aid Agencies, to consider sending volunteers to assist their teams in West Africa, is currently under consideration in the Department of Defence".

Since the first cases in March 2014, the current outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976 with more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined.

So far this year, Ireland has contributed over €17 million to the affected countries in West Africa including €4 million for Ebola treatment facilities in Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the worst affected countries.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. Irish Aid is the Government’s programme for overseas development. It is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Through Irish Aid, the Government is providing over €17 million in the region directly to our partner governments, through NGOs and to the newly established UN Ebola Trust Fund.. This includes €4 million for Ebola treatment facilities in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Our programmes in Sierra Leone and Liberia are very focused on strengthening health systems.

2. The Emergency Civilian Assistance Team (ECAT) initiative was established in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the wake of the successful outcome of the kidnapping of humanitarian workers Sharon Commins and Hilda Kiwuki in Darfur in July 2009. An ECAT deployment may consist of personnel from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Gardai and the Defence Forces, who are deployed at the request of the Secretary General and the Government, in the event of a particular crisis where Irish citizens are involved. Since the establishment in 2010, ECAT members were deployed to assist in the evacuation of Irish and EU citizens from Libya in 2011. The initiative has also facilitated enhanced cooperation between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces on security matters at Ireland’s diplomatic mission network overseas.

3. HSE Information for Humanitarian Aid Workers on Ebola Virus Disease can be found here<http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Vectorborne/ViralHaemorrhagicFever/Ebola/TravelAdvice/File,14909,en.pdf>.



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