UN still owes State over €9m in unpaid peace-keeping bills
THE taxpayer is owed over €9m by the United Nations (UN) in unpaid debt relating to our peace-keeping missions, the Irish Independent has learned.
Significant personnel and equipment costs incurred by the Department of Defence in order to fund UN-led operations has yet to be reimbursed.
Figures released by Defence Minister Simon Coveney confirm that the State has been paid €3.1m since January for the participation of Irish troops in missions in Central Africa, Lebanon and the strife-torn Golan Heights.
But €9.1m is still outstanding according to the information supplied to Labour Party TD Robert Dowds.
Mr Dowds last night called on the UN to "get its act together" and said it is unacceptable for the department to be chasing these substantial sums on behalf of the taxpayer.
"I think that the UN needs to get its act together and pay Ireland the money it is owed for the important service which our peacekeeping troops are providing in conflict zones around the world," Mr Dowds said.
"We're still struggling with a very large debt in Ireland and I really don't think we should have to be chasing the UN for money," he added.
There has been major focus in recent weeks on the role of Irish troops in the highly volatile Golan Heights. The area will receive a new contingent of 130 Irish troops next month
Mr Dowds, a Dublin Mid-West TD, said the role of Irish troops in peace-keeping missions is as important as ever given the "ongoing instability" in the Middle East.
"We are all very proud of the role which our defence forces play in helping preserve peace in very difficult circumstances, but I think that most people would agree that we should not have to be chasing the UN for the cost of providing such an important service. This is particularly relevant now considering the ongoing instability in the Middle East, and the serious risks which our soldiers are being exposed to," Mr Dowds said.
According to the figures, a €6.4m bill relates to repatriation costs of equipment that was used as part of the UN mission in the Central African Republic and Chad. The amount owed by the UN in relation to this mission is subject to an ongoing review, the department said. Debts totalling €2.7m relate to the missions in the Lebanon and the Golan Heights.
The department said that Ireland is not entitled to any reimbursement in respect of Defence Forces participation in EU and NATO-led missions as all troop contributors to such missions are responsible for their own costs.
"Rates of reimbursement, fixed in accordance with UN categories of equipment and personnel, are agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the UN,"the department said.