An EU invitation to the Irish Defence Forces to join a new military training mission in the west-African country of Mali is a reasonable possibility, Defence Minister Alan Shatter has said.
A decision to set up the mission was taken by EU foreign ministers yesterday in Brussels at an emergency meeting called to discuss the crisis in Mali where French troops are currently fighting Islamist rebels.
The mission is expected to involve 450 EU staff.
After yesterday's EU justice and home affairs meeting in Dublin Castle, Mr Shatter (pictured) held out the possibility they could be asked to train the Mali army.
Mr Shatter said that if a request was made, he would bring it before the Cabinet and, if the Government agreed, a proposal would be tabled.
Irish troops are currently involved in training soldiers in Somalia.
The force is currently headquartered in Kampala in neighbouring Uganda but, according to Mr Shatter, it is expected in the coming weeks, if security considerations allow, it will be moved to the Somalian capital, Mogadishu.
The cost of the operation is estimated at €12.3m.