SPEECH BY MR. MICHAEL SMITH, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE,
AT THE REVIEW OF THE SIXTH TRANSPORT COMPANY, KFOR,
WHICH WILL SHORTLY DEPART FOR SERVICE IN KOSOVO
McKee Barracks 2.30p.m. 14 February 2002
Chief of Staff, Secretary General of the Department of Defence, Ladies and Gentleman and personnel of the sixth Irish Transport Company, KFOR, I am honoured to have this opportunity to address you here today before you depart for Kosovo.
The KFOR mission is an example of one of the new type of overseas peace support missions. It is authorised by the United Nations and implemented on the ground by NATO-led forces. The task assigned to the Irish Transport Company is an important one and it is a task for which our personnel are well trained and well equipped. They carry out military and humanitarian resupply missions to villages and towns throughout the entire KFOR area of operations in Kosovo. Their mission is very efficient and effective because of the quality of the transport fleet at their disposal. They are operating the most modern, reliable and effective vehicles on the market.
Over and above their normal duties, members of the various Irish Transport Units in Kosovo have assisted with humanitarian tasks, most notably, the reconstruction of family houses in the Lipljan area. Last year I made a short visit to Kosovo to see the members of the 4th Transport Company and I took the opportunity to visit some of these families. The help given to local families by Irish troops made me feel very proud in Kosovo. When one considers that this work is carried out only after they have performed their daily UN duties, it is all the more remarkable. I understand that the 5th Transport Company have put a lot of time and energy into renovating and painting a wing of a psychiatric ward in Pristina and I congratulate them on this very worthwhile work.
Earlier this week, here in McKee Barracks, the 2002 Recruitment Campaign was launched. At this stage most of you will have seen and heard the advertisements on television and radio. I am confident that we can attract recruits, even in today's highly competitive environment. We need the brightest and the best. With so many other career choices on offer what we are getting is men and women of the highest calibre - those that are motivated and genuinely interested in an exciting, challenging and rewarding career. The Defence Forces offer excellent training, the chance to acquire new skills and the opportunity of overseas service. The rate of pay is excellent - as an example, after just six months service a young person will be earning over €400 per week. In addition, accommodation and equipment have never been better.
Ireland has a long and proud record of participation in UN authorised peace support missions. Throughout that time they built up a reputation as being impartial and professional peacekeepers. In recent years, the UN has increasingly authorised regional organisations to organise peace support missions on its behalf. In conformity with our long standing principles, we participate in planning and preparation for UN authorised peace support missions and humanitarian relief through the mechanisms of Partnership for Peace and the EU Rapid Reaction Force. Sometimes what we are actually doing can be misrepresented and it is a matter of regret that our training and preparations have sometimes been cynically exploited and misrepresented by certain elements in our society. This Government remains firmly committed to UN authorised peace support missions.
I would like to wish the Unit Commander, Commandant Jim Dawson, Captain Willie Tierney, Captain Kevina Kinahan, Captain Brendan Lyons and all 108 members of the 6th Transport Company a safe and successful tour of duty. I know that you are a very experienced group of soldiers and that this contingent includes personnel who have served on many overseas missions.
Finally, I am delighted that families and friends are able to attend here this afternoon as it gives me the opportunity to express my appreciation for the considerable sacrifice made by each and every family through the absence from home for six months of a loved one. Family support has always been an important element in ensuring the success of an overseas mission. That support has always been there in the past and I know it will be there for this latest KFOR mission.
I wish each and every one of you an enjoyable and fulfilling tour of duty and, most importantly, a safe return home. Thank you.