Statement on the deployment of Permanent Defence Force for service with UNDOF18 July 2013
106 IrishFinn Battalion & Chief-of-Staff
As members are aware, the resolution before the House is part of the Triple Lock system, under which deployment of the Defence Forces overseas, depends on a UN Mandate, a Government Decision, and a resolution of the House.
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my strong support for the approval of the resolution before the House. I have been working closely with Minister Shatter in relation to this request and fully support the proposed deployment of a contingent from the Defence Force to UNDOF.
This enables Ireland to make a major contribution to peacekeeping in a region of the world which is experiencing significant unrest but in which, we have, considerable experience going back over many years.
In deploying to UNDOF at the Golan Heights area between Syria and Israel, we continue a proud tradition of answering the UN’s call for service with UN peacekeeping missions and we consolidate our global reputation in this field.
We also extend significantly the contribution which Ireland is making to the search for peace and stability in Syria and the surrounding regions.
UNDOF has, for many years, managed successfully the tensions between Syria and Israel in this sensitive area and made a notable contribution to regional stability. The addition of a contingent of members of the Defence Force will assist UNDOF at a time of particular challenge and help it to take forward, and to reinforce, its vital work.
The reports given to the UN Security Council this week on the situation in Syria and its impact in the region are deeply disturbing. The region is struggling to deal with the influx of an alarming number of refugees, estimated at 6,000 each day, and the extension of the violence beyond Syria’s borders.
The government has been actively responding to the conflict. My Department has overseen the provision of humanitarian assistance of almost €10 million through the UN agencies, International Committee of the Red Cross and Irish NGOs such as Concern and Goal.
With the spillover of the conflict beyond Syria’s borders the UN’s priority is to ensure that its peacekeeping missions can deal with the consequences of the Syrian conflict and operate safely in a changing and increasingly challenging environment.
UNDOF has operated in the Golan Heights area since 1974, but is now particularly exposed to the confrontation between the Syrian Government and opposition forces, which has spilled over into the Golan Heights area. Regrettably, the escalation of the conflict has had a direct impact on the operation of this peacekeeping mission. In response to this, the UN has sought to strengthen UNDOF’s capacity and has undertaken a number of measures to strengthen the security and safety of the personnel serving with UNDOF.
The security and safety of UN personnel was an issue of particular concern for the Government in considering this request and one which I have discussed with Minster Shatter. We have discussed this issue with the UN raised our concerns with the UN which has been forthright and flexible in responding to them.
We will, through our diplomatic mission in New York, continue our dialogue on these important issues with a view to ensuring that everything possible will be done to ensure the security of our personnel and the success of their mission.
The UN’s objectives in making this request to Ireland are twofold: to increase the resources of the mission, and, to strengthen confidence in UNDOF.
When I discussed this request with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, he emphasised the importance of having a highly-regarded peacekeeping country at UNDOF to ensure that the UN has a credible presence in this area; this is why the UN looked to Ireland.
Ban Ki-moon’s confidence in our peacekeepers is shared by a number of countries who have expressed their support for this deployment. They have indicated that they will increase their support for the UN missions in the area if Ireland provides the mobile Force Reserve for UNDOF.
Their confidence in Ireland is a result of our long and distinguished history of peacekeeping and our willingness to take on challenging peacekeeping missions. Peacekeeping is an integral part of our foreign policy and underpins Ireland’s strong commitment to multilateralism and the UN.
This is an important opportunity for Ireland to contribute to stability in a region where the Defence Force has supported the UN for just over 55 years and where we are already contributing to the three UN peacekeeping missions (UNDOF, UNTSO and UNIFIL).
It is also an important opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the United Nations. The UN like all multilateral organisations is only as strong and effective as its members enable it to be.
I hope that with the support of this House and approval of this resolution, Ireland will once again be able to demonstrate that we can, and do, deliver on our commitment to the UN.
I want to take this opportunity to extend my good wishes those members of the Defence Forces who will deploy on this mission. I want to thank them for their service to our country, to the United Nations and to the cause of peace.