New mission for Defence Forces in Med approved by Cabinet

By Daniel McConnell
Political Editor

The Government has approved the deployment of up to three Permanent Defence Force personnel to a new EU operation in the Mediterranean.

Codenamed Operation Irini, the plan will not see an Irish naval vessel deployed but it does provide for the possible future deployment of up to two Permanent Defence Force personnel to the Force Headquarters at sea.

In the memorandum for Cabinet, ministers were told that Operation Irini follows on from Operation Sophia and has been established with the core task of contributing to preventing arms trafficking within its agreed area of operation in the Mediterranean.

“Operation Sophia officially closed on 31st March 2020 following a number of technical rollovers of the operation mandate between September 2018 and March 2020 in light of the ongoing lack of agreement around disembarkation and redistribution of migrants rescued at sea,” Defence Minister Paul Kehoe told Cabinet

At present the Defence Forces have two personnel deployed to the Operational Headquarters of Operation Sophia in Rome.

The pair are currently engaged in administrative activities to close out Operation Sophia. Our existing contributions of up to 3 personnel to the HQ in Rome will be maintained under the new Operation Irini.

“The Defence Forces had previously provided two personnel to the Force Headquarters located at sea on an Italian Naval Vessel. Subject to the availability of the requisite personnel, it is proposed that Ireland may also fill up to 2 appointments in the Force Headquarters of the new mission,” the memo states.

“Should migrants be rescued, an arrangement is in place where a Member State will volunteer a port of disembarkation and rescued migrants will be distributed in accordance with pre-declared pledges made by those Member States who have a ship deployed in the mission and by other MS who voluntarily participate,” it adds.

“It is not proposed to deploy an Irish Naval Vessel to the operation at this time,” it concluded.

The matter was approved by Cabinet on Friday.

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