Tom Brady: Terror attack on hotel will have little impact on our decision to send our troops to Mali
The hostage incident in a hotel in Mali yesterday will have little impact on an Irish Government decision to send more peacekeeping troops to the land-locked and strife-riven country in western Africa.
At present, the Defence Forces have 10 personnel working with an EU training mission (EUTM) in Mali.
Three are based in Bamako, where yesterday's attack took place, and fill administrative and logistics posts with the mission.
The other seven are deployed in training of Malian armed forces to enable them to establish the long-term security of the country, under civilian authority. They are based 60km north-east of Bamako in Koulikoro.
Mali was plunged into conflict after its president was ousted in a military coup in 2012, and its forces divided into several factions, with one group hijacked by Islamist extremists.
None of the 10 Irish is in the front line and neither will the bigger deployment, likely to be sent by the Government as part of its response to the French call for help from its EU partners following Friday night's terrorist atrocity in Paris. It is the favoured option for help so far - and it is highly unlikely that what took place yesterday will influence ministers to pull back from that stance.
In contrast, the United Nations mission in Mali (Minusma) is deployed on the streets to try to re-establish peace.
It is regarded as the most dangerous UN mission in the world, suffering 56 fatalities among its 10,000-strong contingent.
The Irish are in relatively safe jobs, working as part of a 24-strong training team alongside British colleagues.
The French provide two teams and it is expected that additional Irish troops would lead to a reduction in their numbers in the training and administrative areas and allow them to be sent back to help shore up security at home in the wake of the terrorist strike. The strength of the EU mission is 578.
Ireland has almost 500 troops serving in peace-keeping and enforcement missions overseas.
This will be increased in the new year, with additional troops being sent to Lebanon and troops put on stand-by at home as it is Ireland's turn to be ready to take up EU battlegroup duties in the first six months of 2016.
Even if the battlegroup is not deployed, and it has not been since the concept was first put into action, that group is included as part of the Defence Force commitment of 850 troops to peace missions.
However, senior defence officials point out that 850 is not a maximum figure and will not restrict the Government from breaching it should ministers opt for a bigger presence in Mali.
Meanwhile, senior ordnance officers from the Defence Forces will host a week-long international course on "marauding terrorist attacks", at the national training centre in the Curragh from Monday.
The course will be attended by delegates from 24 countries, including 22 EU states, and is aimed at boosting inter-agency support, including civil, police, fire and ambulance services, as well as military.
The decision to base the course at the Curragh is seen as international recognition of the skill and experience of Irish ordnance and bomb disposal personnel as a result of decades of deployment in trouble spots and along the Border.