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UN Report 2003 - Minspeechf
Statement by the Minister for Defence, Mr Willie O’Dea T.D., to the Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Womens Rights on the Motion before Dáil Éireann seeking approval for the Minister’s Report to Dáil Éireann regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2003

Chairman, Members,

In accordance with Section 4 of the Defence (Amendment) Act, 1993, I am glad to report to Dáil Éireann on Irish military participation in United Nations missions. The report for 2003 was laid before the Dáil on 11 November, 2004 and the following Motion has been placed on the Order Paper for Dáil Éireann:

“That Dáil Éireann approves the report by the Minister for Defence pursuant to Section 4 of the Defence (Amendment) Act, 1993, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 11 November, 2004.”

In commending this motion, I would like to outline some of the key aspects of Ireland’s involvement with the UN over the past couple of years.

The Defence Forces continued to make a major contribution to international peace keeping through their participation in peace support operations. During 2003, an average of approximately 750 personnel were involved in UN or UN Mandated Missions. Defence Forces personnel were deployed on 14 different missions throughout the world, in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

During the first six months of the year under review, our largest overseas commitment in 2003 was in Eritrea with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). During those months, a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 209 personnel, provided a Guard and Administration Company in UNMEE. Twelve additional members of the Permanent Defence Force served at the Force Headquarters in Asmara, Eritrea. The Irish contingent concluded its service with this mission in June 2003, following the completion of three rotations.

Towards the end of the year under review the Defence Forces maintained Ireland’s long and historic association with the African continent when, in December 2003, a contingent was deployed for service with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).This contingent comprises a motorized infantry battalion, of some 430 personnel. A small number of additional personnel have also been deployed at Force Headquarters and as Military Observers. Sadly, at the start of the Defence Forces involvement with this mission, Sergeant Derek Mooney lost his life while on duty in Liberia and one of his colleagues was injured.

The Defence Forces contingent in UNMIL is currently Ireland’s largest overseas deployment since our contingent was withdrawn from UNIFIL in 2001. Relative to our size and our available resources and capabilities, both financial and military, Ireland is proportionately a very large peacekeeping contributor within the international community.

As well as above missions, Ireland was also engaged in other UN missions in Cyprus, the Middle East, Western Sahara, the Balkans, East Timor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Ivory Coast. Seven Irish personnel, who had been serving with the UN Iraq/ Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) on the Iraq/Kuwait Border, were repatriated to Ireland, following the suspension in March 2003 of the mission prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq.

As members will be aware, the nature of peacekeeping operations is changing from traditional UN led missions to regionally led peace operations with the onus being placed on regional states to organise and assemble peacekeeping troops for the purpose of discharging a UN Mandate. These missions represent the trend in UN peacekeeping where missions operate under the control of an established command structure or a lead nation rather than under direct command of the UN. This change has implications for the manner in which these operations are organised and structured, with a much greater emphasis on bilateral relations with established military command structures, such as NATO and the EU, between participating states and troop contributing countries.

During 2003, Ireland participated in two NATO led UN Mandated Missions in the Balkans in KFOR and SFOR. Ireland currently contributes an APC mounted Infantry Group of some 205 personnel to KFOR, following the replacement in September 2003, of a Transport Company, which Ireland had provided to KFOR since 1999.

For the greater part of 2003, the Defence Forces continued to staff a number of posts in the SFOR HQ in Sarajevo, following the withdrawal of the SFOR Military Police contingent in January 2003. In December 2004 a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force, was despatched for a period of one year, for service with EUFOR, the EU-led Mission/Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, established under the authority of the UN a, as the legal successor to SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ireland currently contributes 54 personnel to EUFOR. The deployment of Defence Forces personnel to these missions was approved by Dáil Éireann in accordance with the established procedures for the deployment of armed Defence Forces personnel overseas.

Since July 2002, Ireland deployed seven personnel to serve with International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. NATO assumed leadership of this Force, which operates under a UN Mandate, on 11 August, 2003.

In mid-2003, Ireland contributed 5 personnel to the first EU-led peace support mission outside Europe - Operation ARTEMIS in the Congo. This mission, which was launched in June 2003 and concluded in September 2003, was deployed at the request of the United Nations.

If Ireland is to continue to provide personnel for service in the cause of international peace and security, then its capacity to integrate with the command structures of other nations and regional organisations must be optimised, so as the Defence Forces can deploy at short notice to missions and immediately commence effective operations. This requires preparation, training and practice so as to achieve acceptable standards of interoperability with other forces across a range of skills and competencies.

In October, 1998, in furtherance of Government policy on participation in overseas peace keeping operations, Ireland signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations in relation to the United Nations Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS). Under this arrangement, Ireland committed to providing 850 personnel, configured as a light infantry mounted battalion. From within our existing UNSAS commitment, Ireland has offered up to 850 members of the Defence Forces as its commitment to the EU Helsinki Headline Goal (EUHHG), otherwise referred to as the “ EU Rapid Reaction Force” (EURRF). The UN is increasingly looking to regional organisations such as the EU to conduct peacekeeping operations on its behalf.

Given Ireland’s long history and commitment to United Nations operations, it is a natural progression that Ireland participates in the development of the new structures such as PfP and the EU Headline Goal, so as it is in the best position possible to meet its obligations to UNSAS and to the maintenance of international peace and security. Through its participation in the new structures, Ireland can make an important and positive contribution to the future development of international co-operation in the area of crisis management operations and can influence the manner in which international security and peacekeeping policy develops. Members of the Committee will be aware of the record of the Defence Forces in this regard. I should emphasise that decisions in relation to participation on any particular mission remain a sovereign issue. Such decisions will be made on the basis of an assessment of the mission and the contribution which Ireland can make to a particular mission. In addition, the mission must have a UN Mandate and must be approved by the Government and by Dáil Éireann, in accordance with Irish Law.

I would like to draw the attention of the Committee to the humanitarian aspects of Ireland’s participation in peace keeping missions. Increasingly, in the international environment, humanitarian tasks go hand in hand with military tasks in peacekeeping missions. This has been a particular facet of Ireland’s participation in overseas missions over the years. In this regard, Irish troops serving overseas, display not alone their professional commitment in fulfilling the United Nations mandate, but also support and encourage the local people. Currently in Liberia, an AIDS Hospice run by the Missionaries of Charity (The Order of Mother Theresa), is being assisted on a personal voluntary basis by members of the Irish Battalion. Most of this work is completed by Irish Defence Forces personnel on a voluntary basis in their spare time. The main source of funding towards this Humanitarian work comes from funding from Development Cooperation Ireland (DCI) and through funding raised by Irish contingents.

These types of projects are part and parcel of the manner in which Ireland has in the past and continues to discharge its peacekeeping mandate which respects and supports the dignity of the people and communities we serve. I would like here to acknowledge the excellent work of the Defence Forces in this regard which I observed at first hand when I visited the UN mission in Liberia in December last and during my visit to Kosovo last month. Their work and commitment to the local community is much admired and remarked upon by the people in the areas in which they serve.

During 2003, Ireland was entitled to reimbursement of troop costs in respect of 5 missions, namely, UNIFIL, UNFICYP, UNMISET, UNMEE and UNMIL. Reimbursements totaling €3.96 million approximately were paid to Ireland by the UN in 2003 leaving a total of €9.22 million approximately owed at 31 December, 2003. The annual extra cost, net of reimbursements, of our commitments to the above mentioned UN funded missions in respect of 2003 was €0.3 million approximately. From 1 January, 2004 to date, the United Nations has reimbursed €13.11 million approximately. The amount owed to Ireland as at 31 May, 2005, by the United Nations in respect of contributions toward troop and other costs associated with the participation of Irish Defence Forces personnel in UN missions is €9.3 million approximately.

As well as the extensive involvement of Irish military personnel in United Nations peacekeeping operations, a number of Irish officers have held the most senior and prestigious appointments with several United Nations missions since our involvement first began. I would like to pay tribute here to the contribution made by Major General Carl Dodd during his term as Chief of Staff UNTSO. At the request of the UN, Major Dodd’s appointment was extended for a further year from 1 April, 2003. Such appointments bring prestige and honour not only to the Defence Forces but to the country as a whole. I would also like to pay tribute to the members of An Garda Síochana for the excellent contribution which that force makes to the cause of international peace by their participation in overseas missions.

Participation in overseas peacekeeping missions is a key element of Ireland’s foreign policy and has been an important dimension in meeting Ireland’s international obligations as a member of the UN and the EU. Irish foreign policy is directed at supporting co-operative arrangements for collective security through the development of international organisations, especially the United Nations, and supporting effective international action in areas such as disarmament, peacekeeping, development and human rights. This approach continues to define Irish priorities within the UN system and Ireland remains willing to play a full role in contributing to the security of Europe and the world.

Ireland continues to build on a long tradition of service to the founding principles of the United Nations by making practical commitments of personnel on a continuing basis. Notwithstanding the considerable undertaking which it represents both in financial and personnel terms, the Government remains committed, with due regard to the safety of our troops, to the principle of military participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations in the cause of international peace. This represents a huge contribution for a nation the size of Ireland and it has been made possible by the willingness of the Irish people, represented by successive Governments, to play our part in assisting with conflict resolution by responding generously to calls from the United Nations down the years.

In conclusion, I would like to commend the individual soldiers, who have served and who continue to serve on overseas missions, together with their families and loved ones. Without their loyal and continuing support, Ireland’s strong tradition of service overseas, under the auspices of the United Nations, would not be possible. Their committed and dedicated service in overseas missions reflects well not alone on the Defence Forces, but on the nation as a whole and contributes to the excellent reputation which Ireland holds among peacekeepers throughout the world.

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