A NAVAL Service vessel is being sent to New York next week as part of Ireland's bid to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney confirmed the deployment after Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers raised questions in the Dáil on whether it was being sent to "wine and dine" UN officials or whether it had "serious business" in the US as well.
The government has already spent €650,000 on the efforts to win out over Norway and Canada and take a Security Council seat from 2021 to 2022.
President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Coveney will all be travelling to the New York next week to take part in various meetings at the UN headquarters including a climate action summit and the annual UN General Assembly.
There will also be engagements with other countries as Ireland seeks to build support for the bid to win a Security Council seat.
Mr Chambers asked about the purpose of sending a Naval Service vessel to New York.
He raised concerns about recent reports of Naval ships being left in dock due and unable to meet service level agreements for its duties around Ireland.
He also raised the recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces and the "considerable costs" already incurred on the bid for the UN role.
Mr Chambers said: "Can you tell me what the purpose of that trip is. Is it to wine and dine UN officials or is there serious business going on there?"
Mr Coveney confirmed that a Naval Service vessel will be in New York next week and it will also be visiting other cities on the east coast with large Irish populations.
He also defended the mission and said the role of the Naval Service is not limited to fisheries protection and intercepting drugs shipments and he pointed to the missions to save refugees in the Mediterranean.
He added: "as we’ll see next week where they essentially will be playing an ambassadorial role in terms of not just the Security Council campaign – that’s only one element of what they’re doing – they’re also reaching out to Irish diaspora in in big Irish cities on the east coast and this is not new."
He said Naval ships have been sent abroad with a diplomatic role "many times in the past" and continued: "I would appeal to people not to try and make it into something that it’s not.
"We’re also trying to recruit people into the Naval Service and people need to see a broad spectrum of roles and responsibilities that Naval personnel actually play and I think that will be very evident next week abroad."
The Defence Forces said that the LÉ Samuel Beckett is the ship that will visit New York and confirmed that Boston is the other city on its interary.
The US visit will last from September 24 to October 7.
Separately, Children Minister Katherine Zappone has been appointed as the government's special envoy for Ireland's candidature for the UN Security Council seat.
A statement this evening said: "ministers across Government are seeking every available opportunity to promote Ireland’s candidature and make the case for the strong and independent role Ireland would play... based on our track record during more than 60 years of UN membership."
It said Ms Zappone has promoted Ireland’s candidature during numerous bilateral and multilateral meetings since the official launch of the bid in July 2018.
She has also addressed the UN Security Council on a number of occasions since 2017, including regarding the issue of children and armed conflict.
The vote on who will take the Security Council seat will take place at the UN General Assembly in June 2020.
Ms Zappone will be among a large Irish delegation that will travel to New York next week.
Minister Richard Bruton will be attending the UN Climate Action Summit while Minister Simon Harris will be attending a UN meeting on health.