Speech by Mr. Michael Smith, T.D., Minister for Defence
at the Review of the Military Police Company before their
departure for service with SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina
McKee Barracks 10 July 2001
Secretary General of the Department of Defence, Deputy Chief of Staff, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman and most importantly personnel of the Military Police Company, Irish Contingent, SFOR. I am pleased to have this opportunity to address you prior to your departure for service with SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
SFOR’s mandate is to implement the military aspects of the peace agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina, known as the Dayton Agreement. Its role is to contribute to a secure environment that will lead to lasting peace in the region. SFOR is involved in maintaining local security, facilitating freedom of movement for the local population and assisting the return of refugees.
The presence of SFOR has been a major factor in keeping the situation calm and in trying to get things back to a normal footing. The strength of the force has reduced from more than 30,000 troops in 1997 to less than 20,000 today and in that period no atrocities have been witnessed which is a positive outward sign of SFOR’s presence. It is truly an international force with 35 countries contributing troops.
The Irish experience in SFOR, which commenced in 1997, has been very positive. This is 9th contingent of Irish troops to serve as part of the military police company at SFOR Headquarters in Sarajevo. I would like to say a special word of thanks to the members of the previous contingents whose tours of duty went well and they further enhanced the proud reputation of Irish soldiers in the peacekeeping field. The military police role is high profile in nature because all Irish troops are serving at SFOR headquarters in Sarajevo. Personnel in this Company have had a wide range of peacekeeping experience in UN missions in Lebanon, Cyprus, Kuwait and Sarajevo. I would like to single out CQ Wykes who commences his 12th overseas trip. The service of this contingent in Bosnia and Herzegovina will make a very practical and a positive contribution to the ongoing peace process there and I am confident that your mission will be a total success.
The SFOR mission is an example of one of the new type of overseas peace support missions - it is NATO led and authorised by the United Nations. The new security challenges which have emerged in Europe have brought a recognition that the European states should do more to address such crisis situations as that which arose in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Increasingly a range of coordinated approaches involving political, diplomatic, humanitarian, policing and military elements - in the form of regional peace-keeping and crisis management - are seen as necessary to ensure stability.
This is an exciting time to be in the Defence Forces. We have already made significant progress in relation to new equipment. In addition to equipment, we need to see the development of a new integrated personnel management system. Through the convergence of organisation, personnel, training and equipment, we will shape the Defence Forces to respond to the opportunities ahead.
I wish the Company Commander, Commandant Joe Scanlon, the Senior Irish Officer, Lt. Col. Jim Roche, and each and every member of the Military Police Company a safe and successful tour of duty.
I would especially like to thank the families and friends of the troops preparing for departure who I am delighted to see here this afternoon. Family support is extremely important to the success of overseas missions. Family occasions like anniversaries, birthdays, etc., are often missed by a family member who is abroad on peacekeeping duties and these sacrifices are recognised and appreciated. On behalf of the Government I would like to thank you all here today for the support given to these Defence Forces personnel setting off for overseas service.
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