Wednesday 21 August 2019

Taoiseach confirms all Irish peace keepers in Mali are safe

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Lise Hand

The Taoiseach has confirmed that all ten members of the Irish Defence Forces currently in Mali are safe. "Ireland is participating as part of an official EU training programme in Mali, along with 21 other countries. All our personnel are safe, I've checked that," he said.

Mr Kenny was speaking as news broke of what he described as "a serious incident"  At least three hostages have been killed and 170 people taken hostage in a hotel siege in Mali. Gunmen shouting Islamic slogans attacked the Radisson Blu hotel full of foreigners in Mali's capital Bamako early this morning.

He also said that there has been "no request or no proposal" from France for Irish peace-keeping troops to replace French forces who may withdraw from the region to return to domestic security duties.

"There's no proposition or no proposal or no request for Ireland in respect of Mali or anywhere else. The French ambassador and the French foreign minister did say that the French forces are stretched in the various locations they are, and they might ask for help. But there isn't any formal request from Mali," he said.

Mr Kenny added that any such decision made by government would have to ben put to a vote in the Dáil." Any request that comes before the minister for foreign affairs obviously will be considered by government, but would have to apply with the conditions under which we would give assistance in any kind of form. And clearly there are restrictions in the kind of assistance that Ireland might be able to give because of our neutrality," he said,

Last night, Defence Minister Simon Coveney said the government was "anxious to be helpful" if France pulls peacekeepers from Mali. Asked if Irish troops would be sent to replace French peacekeepers before Christmas he said: “I think that’s a pretty short timescale, I am not going to send Irish troops anywhere without the proper due diligence being done first, so let’s wait and see how discussions with France and the UN progress with that," he said.

However Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams today sounded a warning note. “In my remarks following the atrocity in Paris I made it very very clear that we are a State which is neutral," he said. "There is militarisation of the EU going on and of Europe broadly speaking going on at this time. NATO is trying to incorporate and to spread into the European Union, we’re against that we have been very very clear about that."

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