30 March 2010

The Minister for Defence, Mr. Tony Killeen, T.D., has announced that the Government today approved the withdrawal of the Irish contingent of the Permanent Defence Force currently serving with the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). In excess of four hundred (400) Irish troops have been serving in Chad since May 2008 alongside a contingent from Finland, who have been our close partners in this mission.

Speaking following the Government decision, the Minister said: “This is not a decision we wanted to have to make and I personally regret that the situation for MINURCAT in Chad has come to this. Ireland has a long and well-regarded history of participation in UN Peacekeeping missions and we continue to fully support the UN in its peacekeeping efforts. Ireland’s absolute preference would have been to continue to fully participate with the MINURCAT mission. However, the current lack of certainty regarding the continuation of the mission mandate, and the approach of the rainy season has forced this decision on Government. Time is not on our side.”

The Government of Chad has requested the UN to withdraw the military component of MINURCAT and, despite ongoing discussions, the issue has not been resolved to date. As such, there is no clarity regarding the future of the mission or the nature of any future mandate. Under both national and international law, Ireland cannot remain in Chad without a UN mandate. Moreover, the rainy season in Goz Beida, where the Defence Forces contingent is based, begins at the end of May, and makes road movement in Chad impossible. In the absence of an extension of the mandate to end-December 2010, the Defence Forces could be left in a situation where they could not extract themselves from the mission when the current mandate expires in May 2010. The Minister said: “We cannot risk having more than 400 troops and their equipment stranded in Chad with no mandate until the rains end and the ground becomes dry enough for them to move. This would also have significant implications for the safety and security of the men and women involved”.

The Minister has been in contact with Mr Alain Le Roy, Under Secretary General at the UN Department of Peacekeeping over the past number of days with a view to getting greater certainty on the future of the mission. However, the UN was not in a position to give any undertakings on the future of the mission at this time. The Minister said: “Over recent months we have made every effort to impress on the UN our commitment to the mission while making sure they understood the need for a timely decision on the mandate. I know from my discussions with Mr Le Roy that he fully understands the position but is not in a position to provide the necessary assurances. This is obviously regrettable for all concerned. However, I have a duty to the men and women of the Defence Forces to ensure that there is an organized and planned withdrawal of the contingent and all of its equipment from the mission and this can only be achieved if we commence that withdrawal process now. We have been maintaining close contact and liaison with our partners in Finland over past days and weeks as we have continued to engage with the UN on this issue. The Finnish authorities have advised us that they have made a similar assessment in relation to the mission and that the Finnish Government has also approved planning for a drawdown of their own forces from the mission”.

Paying tribute to the Defence Forces, the Minister acknowledged the major role they have played, to date, in contributing to the creation of a safe and secure environment in Chad for refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. “I would like to again emphasise that the decision to withdraw the Irish contingent from the MINURCAT mission does not lessen Ireland’s commitment to the UN but was simply a decision forced on the Government for mainly logistical reasons”, the Minister said.

Subject to the renewal of the mandate beyond May 2010, the Minister for Defence plans to continue to retain a small number of personnel at the Force Headquarters in support of the mission.


END.