95. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence to outline his views regarding the operation of Defence Forces overseas missions in the context of being involved in missions that have run for decades and failed to deliver peace and have in fact enabled the conflict participants to avoid making peace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43331/14 asked on 13 Nov 2014)
Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Participation in overseas peacekeeping missions is a key element of Ireland’s foreign policy and has been an important dimension in meeting Ireland’s international obligations as a member of the UN and the EU. Irish foreign policy is directed at supporting co-operative arrangements for collective security through the development of international organisations, especially the United Nations, and supporting effective international action in areas such as disarmament, peacekeeping, development and human rights. This approach continues to define Irish priorities within the UN system and Ireland remains willing to play a full role in contributing to the security of Europe and the world. The Defence Forces are currently primarily deployed on overseas missions in support of international peace and security under UN mandates. However, with the increased use of more robust Chapter VII missions, the UN has turned to regional organisations such as the EU, the African Union and NATO to manage operations on its behalf and under its authority. This is one of the most significant changes in relation to UN efforts at maintaining international peace and security. In effect the EU and NATO, together with other similar such organisations, are now major players in UN peacekeeping. Peacekeeping also adds to Ireland’s national security by containing conflicts and reducing the threat of conflicts spreading. UN peacekeeping missions, such as UNIFIL, has made a real difference in countries such as Lebanon. The UNIFIL operation has supported political transitions and helped the region to close the chapter of conflict and open a path to normal development, even if major peace building challenges remain.