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Coveney plans broader peacekeeping and humanitarian role for Defence Forces serving overseas in review of military

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Response: Defence Force personnel during a training session for a mission abroad.

Response: Defence Force personnel during a training session for a mission abroad.

Response: Defence Force personnel during a training session for a mission abroad.

A broader role for Defence Force personnel serving overseas is envisaged by the Government as part of the latest review of the military.

Ireland begins its two-year stint on the United Nations security council in January and Defence Minister Simon Coveney said a big part of what they were planning to achieve would be built around peacekeeping, peace enforcement, post-conflict management and how the council responded to the threats of regions being torn apart by war.

“That’s just the start of it,” Mr Coveney said. “If you look at what we’re doing around development-aid partnerships around the world, undoubtedly there is a link bet ween security and development.”

The minister said that in the future there would be a lot more complexity in terms of policy making “between our presence abroad as peacekeepers and soldiers who are managing a post-conflict region, helping to keep the peace through training or presence being part of our development partnership strategy”.

This was an exciting area to move into for defence policy, Mr Coveney said in an interview with Signal, the magazine for officers in the Defence Forces.

He admitted that during the formation of this Government, he had “essentially looked for” the defence portfolio. He said he wanted the defence job and he also believed there was a link between it and foreign affairs, as military serving abroad were ambassadors for Irish foreign policy.

He said a recent example of the synergies between the two portfolios was shown in Ireland’s response to the Beirut port explosion in August, working together to get PPE quickly to Lebanon.

Mr Coveney said the setting up of the commission to review the Defence Forces was to ensure the organisation was fit for purpose, both in terms of meeting immediate requirements and in terms of seeking to develop a longer-term vision for beyond 2030.

This was against a backdrop providing for the military defence of the State, contributing to national and international peace and security and responding to changes in the security environment.

The minister said the Defence Forces had already shown the role they could fulfil in humanitarian work when they rescued 16,000 migrants from the waters of the Mediterranean onto the decks of Irish ships.

“And that’s just a naval focus. When you look at what we’re doing in Unifil (peacekeeping in south Lebanon), in Undof (mission on the Golan Heights), in Mali, Cyprus, Kosovo and in many parts of Africa where we have smaller missions,” he said.

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"Our personnel there are about trying to ensure that stability can be the contributing factor to the development of these regions.”


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