Breen Salutes Irish Troops serving abroad.

October 22nd, 2009 - Pat Breen

Speaking during the Second Stage of the Defence Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2009 in Dail Eireann on Tuesday afternoon last, Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen saluted Irish Troops serving abroad for what he said was “ the wonderful work they are doing abroad.”

The Defence Bill 2009 provides the legislative mechanisms for Irish co-operation in missions associated with the European Defence Agency. The Bill also provides that such missions will require Government and Dail approval and must be associated with the increasing capacity for European Union peacekeeping missions.

Deputy Breen said that “Ireland has a long-standing commitment to conflict prevention, peacekeeping and conflict resolution. They have contributed enormously through their great competence and professionalism to Ireland’s image abroad. Since joining the United Nations in 1955, Ireland has led many overseas operations. The first peacekeeping campaign in which we participated was in 1958 when some 50 officers were assigned to the United Nations observer group in Lebanon along the armistice demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel.”

He went on to say that “The most high profile operation of the Defence Forces is currently in Chad. That country has been rocked by tribal, ethnic and political violence in recent years and the Army has played an important role. General Pat Nash was the operations manager for the EU force in Chad, which was the largest ever EU operation. He recently handed over control to the UN force. Irish people have played a very important role over the years in peacekeeping operations. General Nash operated from the headquarters in Paris, where there was very good planning. I read an interview given by General Nash, and he said that while Chad is now a safer place, it is still very poor with few medical facilities.”

He added that “The EU played a very important role in Chad, with 26 member states sending troops there. It was a difficult task for the Irish troops when they started operations. They set up Camp Ciara and 147 troops were sent in advance to do this. They set up logistical operations in the area. Chad is twice the size of France, with a population of around 11 million people. Poverty is everywhere. There is only 500 km of paved roads, as much of the terrain out there is desert. It was difficult for Irish troops to move into this area, but they succeeded and did extremely well in protecting the local population and the large number of refugees.”

Deputy Breen welcomed the Bill and expressed his hope that it would receive a speedy passage through the House. Referring to Irish Troops joining the European Defence Agency, he said that the “The Dáil, the Government and the UN must give the go ahead for such operations. It is an important area and it is important for our troops to get experience. It will give our troops more experience. It is obviously important that they work with member states of the European Union. The EU should be more effective on the world stage and should have a meaningful role, with the best equipment. Troops sent abroad must have the best equipment to deal with conflict that comes up in their role as peacekeepers. That is very important for the safety of our personnel and for their training.”

Finally, Deputy Breen offered his sympathy to the families to the two members of the Defence Forces, Captain Derek Furniss and Cadet David Jevens, who dies so tragically in Connemara recently and to his colleague Fine Gael’s Spokesperson on Defence Deputy Jimmy Deenihan T.D. on the death of his mother.

See full Text of his Contribution underneath for your information.

^ Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009: Second Stage (Resumed). ^
Tuesday, 20th October 2009.
Deputy Pat Breen: I join colleagues in offering my sympathy to Deputy Deenihan on the death of this mother. I also sympathise with the families of the two members of the Defence Forces, Captain Derek Furniss and Cadet David Jevens, who died so tragically in Connemara. Colleagues referred to the 85 members of the Defence Forces who have died while engaged in peacekeeping duties overseas, but accidents such as that which occurred last week are equally a terrible tragedy for the families of those involved.
This Bill provides the legislative mechanisms for Irish co-operation in missions associated with the European Defence Agency. The Bill also provides that such missions will require government and Dáil approval and must be associated with the increasing capacity for European Union peacekeeping missions. A feature of both campaigns on the Lisbon treaty was the prominence of misinformation particularly in the area of security and defence policy in respect of which those opposed to the treaty succeeded in stoking unfounded fears. The research undertaken by the Government in the wake of the first referendum showed that a perceived threat to our neutrality was an important concern for voters. People were afraid their children would be conscripted into a European army even though the Lisbon treaty includes no provision for the creation of such an army. These concerns were addressed in the second referendum by the legal guarantees on security and defence negotiated by the Taoiseach in Brussels.
Ireland has a long-standing commitment to conflict prevention, peacekeeping and conflict resolution. We salute our servicemen and women for the wonderful work they have done. They have contributed enormously through their great competence and professionalism to Ireland’s image abroad. Since joining the United Nations in 1955, Ireland has led many overseas operations. The first peacekeeping campaign in which we participated was in 1958 when some 50 officers were assigned to the United Nations observer group in Lebanon along the armistice demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel. The first peacekeeping mission to which the armed Irish contingent was committed was in the Congo between 1960 and 1964. Since then Irish troops have served in Cyprus from 1964 to 1973, in Lebanon and in various other areas. Last January a delegation from the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs visited the 44 remaining Irish troops at Camp Shamrock in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Those troops work with thousands of personnel from other countries protecting a fragile democracy and helping to police the political and ethnic divide. The Minister has been there on several occasions. It was great to see at first hand their work with the local police and defence forces and the assistance they provide to the EUFOR mission. Bosnia Herzegovina has a population of more than 4 million people. There are major challenges in that country, and they have worked hard to protect the population in that very fragile area.
The most high profile operation of the Defence Forces is currently in Chad. That country has been rocked by tribal, ethnic and political violence in recent years and the Army has played an important role. General Pat Nash was the operations manager for the EU force in Chad, which was the largest ever EU operation. He recently handed over control to the UN force. Irish people have played a very important role over the years in peacekeeping operations. General Nash operated from the headquarters in Paris, where there was very good planning. I read an interview given by General Nash, and he said that while Chad is now a safer place, it is still very poor with few medical facilities.
The EU played a very important role in Chad, with 26 member states sending troops there. It was a difficult task for the Irish troops when they started operations. They set up Camp Ciara and 147 troops were sent in advance to do this. They set up logistical operations in the area. Chad is twice the size of France, with a population of around 11 million people. Poverty is everywhere. There is only 500 km of paved roads, as much of the terrain out there is desert. It was difficult for Irish troops to move into this area, but they succeeded and did extremely well in protecting the local population and the large number of refugees.
General Nash is just one person who served the Irish well overseas. A retired member of the Defence Forces, John Ging, had a distinguished career in the Army and served in the Congo, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo and Rwanda. He is now director of the UN Relief and Work Agency in Gaza, which has a budget of about €400 million. His was the voice we all heard last year during the Israeli Palestinian conflict. He risked his life. There were a few assassination attempts on him.
Ireland’s role in peacekeeping is very important, in spite of the myths that were put out during the debates on the Lisbon treaty. We have the triple lock system in place with respect to the deployment of troops abroad. The Dáil, the Government and the UN must give the go ahead for such operations. It is an important area and it is important for our troops to get experience. Joining the European Defence Agency was extremely important. It will give our troops more experience. It is obviously important that they work with member states of the European Union. The EU should be more effective on the world stage and should have a meaningful role, with the best equipment. Troops sent abroad must have the best equipment to deal with conflict that comes up in their role as peacekeepers. That is very important for the safety of our personnel and for their training.
We support this Bill. I am delighted the Minister has brought it to the House now. It will get a speedy passage through the Dáil.