Saturday 17 August 2019

Highest overseas troop level in years

Deployment in two major missions in the Middle East as well as the involvement of the Naval Service in the Mediterranean migrant rescue operation boosted numbers based abroad. Photo: PA
Deployment in two major missions in the Middle East as well as the involvement of the Naval Service in the Mediterranean migrant rescue operation boosted numbers based abroad. Photo: PA
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Ireland's military contribution to overseas missions is at its highest in several years.

Deployment in two major missions in the Middle East as well as the involvement of the Naval Service in the Mediterranean migrant rescue operation boosted numbers based abroad.

The Government has committed to providing a maximum contribution of 850 personnel to overseas missions.

But that figure was set at a time when the overall strength of the military organisation was around 12,500.

Current strength is under 9,200 and supports the argument Ireland is still 'punching above its weight' internationally, as outgoing United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said during a State visit in 2009.

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The key overseas mission for the Defence Forces is Unifil in Lebanon. Ireland took over as the lead nation of a joint battalion with Finland in November and increased peacekeepers there by 150 to a total of 379, including an extra 21 women.

The Irish has been involved in south Lebanon since 1978.

The Defence Forces are also contributing 136 personnel to the Undof mission on the Golan Heights, between Syria and Israel.

In the Mediterranean, the LÉ Samuel Beckett, which had a crew of 57, completed a three-month deployment earlier this month in Operation Pontus, rescuing fleeing migrants.

To date, Naval Service crews have been responsible for the rescue of over 15,600 migrants. Defence Minister Paul Kehoe said he was committed to maintaining the authorised strength of the military at 9,500 and said his 2017 budget catered for pay and allowances for that number.

The Army currently operates at 139 under strength, the Naval Service at 286 below the authorised figure and the Air Corp down by 108. A total of 690 recruits were enlisted to the Army and Naval Service in 2016, the highest intake in the last decade.

Irish Independent

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