42. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the role of the Army Ranger Wing that was stationed as part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan on several occasions since 2006; the reason Dáil Éireann was not alerted to the fact that Irish special forces members were deployed there contrary to the neutrality of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20217/18 asked on 10 May 2018)
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 42 together.
The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) are the Special Operations Forces of the Defence Forces.
Defence Forces personnel, including ARW personnel, are deployed to United Nations peacekeeping missions in accordance with the provisions of the Defence Acts.
The statutory authority for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas is set out in Section 2 of the Defence (Amendment) (No.2) Act, 1960 as amended by the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006.
Personnel from the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) served in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from October 2006 to March 2007 and from September 2014 to March 2015. They also participated in the follow-on mission, Resolute Support Mission (RSM). There was a total of 7 Defence Forces personnel deployed operationally in ISAF at any one time some of whom on occasion happened to be members of the ARW. This provided those personnel with an opportunity to serve overseas, similar to personnel from other parts of the Defence Forces such as the Air Corps and Naval Service, which heretofore, did not often get the opportunity of overseas service.
All ARW personnel deployed to ISAF were employed in similar Staff appointments to those from the rest of the Defence Forces located in ISAF Headquarters in Kabul. Ireland is no longer participating in this mission.
Members of the ARW have also served in the following missions:
United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNISOM) in 1993;
International Force East Timor (INTERFET) from October 1999 to February 2000;
United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) from February 2000 to June 2000;
United Nations mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from July 2003 to March 2004;
European Union Force (EUFOR) Chad in 2008;
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from 2016 to date.
With regard to the above listed missions, Dáil Éireann approval was sought for all of the missions except for Afghanistan where the numbers involved were less than 12 personnel.
The conditions under which the Defence Forces may participate on overseas peace support operations are set out in the Defence Acts. The conditions, known as the “triple lock”, must be satisfied, that is the operation must be authorised/mandated by the United Nations; it must be approved by the Government; and it must be approved by way of a resolution of Dáil Éireann, where the size of a Defence Forces contribution is more than 12 personnel.
Specific details of the numbers of ARW deployed overseas at any time are not released into the public domain for security and operational reasons.
All published numbers of Defence Forces personnel serving overseas include members of the Army Ranger Wing serving on those missions.