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  • Unifil(3)

    Details of the debate. Looks like 3 or 4 years. Good news for those wanting an overseas trip under their belt, and the People of South Lebanon, who will again get the chance to bring up a child with a west cork accent.

    Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): I move:

    That Dáil Éireann approves the despatch, pursuant to section 2 of the Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1960, as applied by the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006, of a further contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), established on 19th March, 1978 under UN Security Council Resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) and in accordance with its additional enhanced mandate as set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006) of 11th August, 2006 as renewed under UN Security Council Resolutions 1773 (2007), 1832 (2008), 1884 (2009) and 1937 (2010) and subject to renewal of the UN authority for the mission thereafter.

    I am introducing this motion and providing information on the reason the Government is responding positively to the United Nations request to provide a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

    On 14 December 2010, the then Government authorised the Minister for Defence to arrange for, inter alia, the dispatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for a period of one year for service for UNIFIL and to move the necessary enabling resolution in Dáil Éireann. On 22 March 2011, the Government noted my intention to implement the Government decision of 14 December 2010 and to move a resolution in Dáil Éireann approving the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with UNIFIL. In commending the motion to the House, I will briefly outline the Defence Forces participation in UNIFIL to date and the background to Ireland’s response to the United Nations request to provide a further contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with UNIFIL.

    Ireland has participated in UNIFIL in various guises since its establishment in 1978. The main Defence Forces battalion was withdrawn in 2001 following 23 years of service with UNIFIL. Ireland again deployed a contingent to Lebanon in 2006, for a period of 12 months, with a Finnish engineering company, when the UNIFIL force was significantly expanded under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of 2006 made on 11 August 2006, following an escalation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon. A small number of Irish personnel currently serve at UNIFIL headquarters in support of the mission.

    Lebanon continues to be viewed by the international community as a volatile environment requiring a robust and extensive international presence. UNIFIL plays a vital role in stabilising southern Lebanon and in particular the area adjacent to Israel. An effective UNIFIL presence helps to neutralise the potential for renewed conflict between Israel and either Lebanon or elements in Lebanon which would have potentially very negative and extensive onward impacts across the wider Middle East region.

    Since the unplanned withdrawal of the joint Irish-Finnish contingent from the UN mission in Chad last year, the Defence Forces and management in the Department have been examining all available options in terms of a deployment for the Defence Forces. In November 2010, the UN requested Ireland and Finland to contribute a mechanised infantry battalion amounting to 500 personnel to UNIFIL. The Finnish Government has also approved participation by the Finnish armed forces in this mission. Planning for the mission is ongoing in consultation with the UN and Finland.

    It is intended that the Defence Forces would deploy an advance group to southern Lebanon on 23 May 2011, with the main contingent being deployed towards the end of June 2011. The Finnish contingent would deploy towards the end of the year. The advance group, comprising some 90 personnel, would include a command and support group, security party and an engineer platoon. The authorised follow-on contingent will be up to approximately 440 personnel, but this number will reduce once the Finnish forces deploy.

    If participation in UNIFIL is approved by the House, initial deployment would be for one year, subject to renewal of the mandate and a satisfactory review of the mission at that time. In line with standing policy that the duration of any deployment should be set at the outset of a mission, I consider that any such deployment would be for a period of three to four years approximately and I propose that the UN be advised accordingly.

    The proposed Irish deployment in UNIFIL would be to a location close to the Israeli border. The security situation in the proposed Irish battalion area of operations is currently calm. The threat to Defence Forces personnel remains low. The threat from armed elements operating in the proposed Irish battalion area of operations is assessed as medium. Appropriate force protection assets will be deployed to this mission, which will be consistent with those of other troop contributors in the area. The Defence Forces are satisfied they have sufficient capabilities, assets and experience to operate in the current and possible future UNIFIL environment in Lebanon.

    The cost of participation in the UNIFIL mission, along with our participation in other UN missions, has been considered in the context of the national recovery plan and the four-year projections for the Defence Vote 2011 to 2014. I am satisfied that the cost of Defence Forces participation in the mission can be met from within the proposed allocations for the Department of Defence.

    As UNIFIL is a UN-led operation, the bulk of the troop, equipment and transportation costs incurred by Ireland will be reimbursed. UNIFIL is a long established mission in the UN system and is well funded. Given previous experience, it is estimated that the net additional costs to the Exchequer in 2011, taking account of UN reimbursements and planned cost reduction initiatives on other deployments, primarily the reduction in the contingent in Operation ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 44 personnel to seven personnel, would amount to approximately €5 million. On the same basis, it is estimated that the net additional cost to the Exchequer in 2012 would be of the order of €2.5 million to €3 million, offsetting the UN reimbursement and the full year savings from cost saving reductions in other operations.

    Deployments on peacekeeping operations play a major role in support of Ireland’s reputation in international organisations, including the UN and the EU, and in its visibility and presence in international politics. Ireland relies to a significant extent on the Defence Forces’ contributions to support its role and credibility within the framework of international peace and security institutions and its role in international political affairs, given the very limited civilian and rule of law resources available to be deployed. In terms of international reputation, it is therefore important for Ireland to maintain a level of commitment to international peacekeeping operations and the obligations it has assumed through its membership of the UN. Throughout the years, Ireland, like Finland, has taken seriously its obligation under the United Nations Charter to make available armed forces, provide assistance and facilities, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. The proposed participation of both Ireland and Finland in UNIFIL is but another example that demonstrates our joint contribution to international peace and security. Ireland previously partnered Finland in the UN-led MINURCAT mission in Chad. The world of peacekeeping has changed dramatically over the past years. Therefore, in the absence of partners, such as our Finnish colleagues, Ireland would be significantly inhibited in the range and nature of operations we could undertake in support of the United Nations.

    The Irish Government is of the view that UNIFIL continues to play a critical role in helping to promote peace and stability in southern Lebanon. A positive response to the UN request will reaffirm our support for the United Nations and be consistent with Ireland’s commitment to UN peacekeeping. Deployment at this time will be a manifestation of Ireland’s long-standing support for the United Nations and its peacekeeping role.

    I am confident the Defence Forces will have a real and substantive role to play in helping to stabilise southern Lebanon and that they will continue to acquit themselves well and make a vital and important contribution to the success of the UNIFIL mission, as they have done throughout the world on so many occasions in the past. I commend the motion to the House.

    Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.

  • #2
    Deputy Robert Troy: Relative to its size and resources, Ireland has always punched above its weight with regard to the Defence Forces. The country is proportionately a very significant contributor to peacekeeping within the international community. I welcome today’s statement as it gives us all an opportunity to pay tribute to the hard-working and courageous troops in the Defence Forces. We do not say it often enough but we should all be very proud of these men and women who have served our country with great honour down through the years. I wish to mention in particular the men and women in the Athlone Barracks and Mullingar Barracks. Today’s statements are also timely given that are we are approaching 29 May, the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

    Since becoming a member of the United Nations in 1955, Ireland has supported effective international action in areas such as disarmament, peacekeeping, development and human rights.
    We have accorded central importance to the primary role of the UN Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security. Ireland’s obligation under the United Nations Charter to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security is reflected in our long and well-regarded history of participation in overseas missions mandated by the United Nations.

    The tripe lock mechanism of Government decision, Dáil approval and UN authorisation, has allowed Ireland, a country which cherishes its tradition of military neutrality, to deploy troops to support peace operations in trouble spots. I wish to reaffirm my party’s commitment to the triple lock system. The importance of our adherence to this system is two-fold. It shows our commitment to military neutrality and the UN. It also demonstrates that global security can only be achieved by the international community working together.

    Concerns were raised during the general election campaign as a result of Fine Gael’s calls to alter the UN component of this triple lock system. In its manifesto, it called for this obligation to be modified. At the time, the Labour Party rightly said such a measure would “rip-up Ireland’s longstanding commitment to military neutrality” and Fianna Fáil echoed these criticisms. I was glad to hear this week that the two coalition parties have ironed out their differences and that the Minister for Defence has reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to the triple lock approach. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, pointed out this week that “the existence of such UN mandates confers legitimacy upon and acceptance of peace support operations by groups engaged in conflict”.

    Over 50 years have passed since Ireland made its first contribution to peacekeeping. In 1958, as part of an armed military observer mission known as the UN observer group in Lebanon, approximately 50 officers set out as observers along the armistice demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel. More than half a century later, Ireland is again being asked to serve in the region. This debate centres on a request to provide a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with UNIFIL. If the request is approved by the House - I sincerely hope it is - the total number of personnel deployed overseas will amount to approximately 570 when the contingent is fully deployed in late June. We have been told that no special training programmes, other than the requisite pre-deployment training for contingents being deployed overseas, are envisaged. If extra training is required, however, I expect it will be provided.

    Ireland has a long and proud tradition of service in Lebanon. I welcome the opportunity for our Defence Forces to build on the substantial contribution they have made to the peace and security of the region. I wish to pay tribute to the 47 Irish troops who lost their lives in the cause of peace in Lebanon since 1978. Overseas service is an important feature of life in the Defence Forces. It is the reason many men and women join the Defence Forces in the first place. At any given time, there can be approximately 1,600 troops overseas. Our commitments under the United Nations standby arrangement system, to which we signed up in 1998, mean that at all times we must be in a position to offer up to 850 Defence Forces personnel for UN peacekeeping operations, if called upon. Regular periods of service overseas help to ensure our troops provide the best and most professional service. This is the best way to keep troops alert and enthused. As we speak some 130 Defence Forces personnel are contributing to 11 different missions throughout the world.

    In 1960, the Government, in response to a request for assistance from the UN, agreed to deploy Irish troops to the Congo to serve in their first major UN mission. The mission marked a major chapter in our history as it was the first opportunity for the Defence Forces to serve alongside armies from other nations. Over 6,000 Irishmen served in the Congo between 1960 and 1964. The mission is remembered for tragic reasons as 26 Irish soldiers lost their lives in its service. Ireland has made a major contribution to missions throughout the world over the years. Conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Central America have meant there has been no shortage of demand for UN troops. In the last decade, Irish troops have contributed to peace missions in Liberia, Lebanon, Chad, Kosovo and Bosnia. At present, our main overseas missions are the EU-led Operation ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the NATO-led international security presence in Kosovo with 12 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the UN and the OSCE. Other staff are deployed at the organisational headquarters of the EU, the OSCE and NATO.

    As I have said, one must feel proud of the thousands of members of the Defence Forces who have carried out their duties to the highest international standards over the years. Our troops have gained extensive experience and have risen to the continuing challenges of peacekeeping. They have shown a capacity to undertake increasingly complex and difficult missions. The investment in and modernisation of equipment, training and infrastructure over the past ten years has allowed this to happen. As a result, we are regularly approached to provide personnel to support peace operations such as that in Lebanon. The nature of peacekeeping has change extensively over the years, from blue hat UN-led mission to regionally-led operations. Our troops have changed with this by adapting to new circumstances. The development of the EU Security and Defence Policy has placed a greater onus on member states, collectively and individually, to contribute personnel in support of UN-mandated crisis management operations.

    An important element of Ireland’s approach to peacekeeping missions is the engagement of our troops at all levels of the community in the region where they serve. Over the years, we have built a good reputation for our efforts in liaising with local populations and providing support and humanitarian assistance. The fact that a number of Irish officers have held the most senior appointments in several UN missions is a testament to the fact that our Defence Forces are held in high regard. Brigadier General Gerry Hegarty was appointed to command the multinational task force in Kosovo, while Lieutenant General Pat Nash was appointed as EU operation commander of the mission in Chad. I support the proposal to send our troops to Lebanon to build on the contribution they have made there over the years. I wish them the best of luck in their efforts.

    Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


    • #3
      Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: Members of the Defence Forces have been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978 as part of the UN mandate force UNIFIL, which was established under UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426. This State’s contribution to UNIFIL consisted of 580 personnel who were rotated every six months, as well as 100 personnel in UNIFIL headquarters and the force mobile reserve. Over 30,000 members of the Defence Forces served in Lebanon over 23 years. The State’s Defence Forces in Lebanon were initially intended to supervise the withdrawal of the Israeli Defence Forces from the area after the 1978 invasion and to prevent further fighting between PLO forces and Israel. Another Israeli invasion in 1982 forced the PLO out of southern Lebanon and the Israelis then proceeded to occupy the area.

      The following 18 years, until 2000, saw prolonged guerilla warfare between Israeli forces, their allies in the South Lebanon Army and members of Hezbollah. UNIFIL was often caught in the middle of the conflict, sometimes with fatal consequences. In addition to their engagement in peacekeeping, members of the Defence Forces also provided humanitarian aid to the local population. Most Defence Forces personnel were withdrawn from Lebanon in 2001, following Israel’s evacuation of its occupying forces the previous year. Hezbollah and the Lebanese Government argue that Israel has not completely withdrawn from all parts of Lebanon. They continue to claim an area known as the Shebaa Farms, which the UN in 2007 decided was Lebanese.

      This motion has been introduced on foot of steps taken by the former Minister, Tony Killeen, after an additional enhanced mandate was provided for under Security Council resolutions 1884 and 1937. As part of this enhanced mandate, Mr. Killeen sought permission of the Government for the deployment of 440 troops as part of UNIFIL. The motion seeks the approval of the House to complete the triple lock mechanism of UN, Government and Dáil approval before members of the Defence Forces can be deployed overseas. I am aware that since the unexpected and unplanned withdrawal of the UN mission in Chad earlier last year, Defence Forces and management personnel in the Department have been examining all available options for a future deployment of the Defence Forces. The UNIFIL deployment will be undertaken in association with the Finnish armed forces, which served as part of the joint contingent during the UN mission in Chad.

      Sinn Féin will support the motion because it believes the task of international peacekeeping is a noble and worthy venture. However, we should not underestimate the dangers posed to members of the Defence Forces while on peacekeeping duty. Since 1958, the Defence Forces have provided in excess of 70,000 personnel for various tours of duty in more than 40 countries. Some 85 of their members have died overseas and many more have been injured. It is always important that overseas missions are fully scrutinised before the deployment of the Defence Forces and the triple lock mechanism is vital for this reason. I, therefore, welcome the statement made by the Minister on Tuesday that he intends to retain it.

      The scrutiny of overseas missions is particularly important in the case of UNIFIL given the history of violence against UN personnel in the region. As recently as 4 July 2010, members of the Israeli Defence Forces were responsible for the deaths of UN personnel when four people lost their lives in shelling, despite Israeli soldiers being repeatedly warned about the shelling by UN peacekeepers. It is undeniable that Israeli forces pose a threat to international peacekeepers in the region where Israel is viewed by many as a rogue state, aggressor and occupier. UN personnel have also been among its many victims in the West Bank and Gaza.

      I condemn the recent violence by extremists’ in Gaza, specifically the killing of an Italian aid worker, which was an appalling act with no possible justification. Our sympathies are with the family of the victim.

      The direct threat posed by Israel and armed forces within Lebanon to members serving with UNIFIL must be recognised and be to the forefront of any decision the Minister makes in regard to deploying further personnel to the region. When Sinn Féin supported the deployment of peacekeepers in 2006, we stated it was regrettable that UNIFIL was only being deployed to the north of the Blue Line in southern Lebanon and not to the south of the Blue Line in Israel. Our position has not changed; UNIFIL should be patrolling both sides of the border. This is not the case, however, and the mission remains confined to south Lebanon alone. Given that the Lebanese authorities are supportive of the UN mission, Sinn Féin also supports it.

      While this State has a proud record of involvement in peacekeeping missions overseas, including in Lebanon, we must remain vigilant in respect of attempts to co-opt the UNIFIL force into serving the ends of interested countries and their foreign policies and ensure such corruption of the mission is not permitted. I call on the Minister to monitor closely the operations of the new UNIFIL force to ensure it operates at all times in a manner that is above reproach. This is particularly important in light of the new, robust UNIFIL mandate.

      It is also important to stress that Israel has not fully withdrawn from southern Lebanon and continues to claim the Shebaa farms area. In his letter to the UN Security Council in August 2010, the UN Secretary General pointed out that Israel had still not met the requirement in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 to withdraw from the southern Lebanese town of Ghajar and the surrounding area, which is north of the Blue Line. I ask the Minister to join me in urging Israel to complete its withdrawal from this area as quickly as possible.

      In the same letter to the Security Council the Secretary General referred to the repeated violation by Israeli aeroplanes of the Blue Line, which he described as continuing “unabated” despite being repeatedly raised with the Israeli authorities. I hope the Minister will join me in condemning what the Lebanese Government has described as daily violations of its national sovereignty by Israeli forces.

      Despite the weaknesses in the resolution and mindful of the continuing support for the deployment of UN peacekeepers by the Lebanese Government, Sinn Féin welcomes the deployment of a further contingent of the Permanent Defence Forces and hopes they return safely.

      Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


      • #4
        Deputy Finian McGrath: I wish to share time with Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Clare Daly.

        I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate on the decision to send Irish troops to Lebanon. Decisions of this importance should not be taken lightly because lives are at stake when we send troops overseas. In principle, I favour the decision to deploy Defence Forces personnel to Lebanon because it is a United Nations mission. Ireland must be seen to be involved in international peacekeeping.

        The triple lock mechanism is a key element of our foreign policy. For this reason, statements made in the past that it will remain in place are welcome.

        Lebanon has a long history of conflict and bloodshed and thousands of innocent civilians have died in the country. When we debate foreign policy and United Nations missions, we must bear in mind that lives are at stake. Irish troops deployed to Lebanon should have a clear mandate to act at all times as peacekeepers, work with local communities and take a strong independent and humanitarian line. Ireland’s foreign policy has always reflected these priorities and I hope this remains the case. I am concerned about some recent comments on our foreign policy. We must not lose our independent approach to international issues and we must ensure we are not lumped in with countries which support the policies of NATO.

        In recent days, international pressure has been mounting on Israel to break the deadlock in the Middle East. I strongly support the right of the Palestinians to a homeland and the proposed two state solution because co-existence is needed in the region. The Palestinians appear to have given up hope of reaching a negotiated settlement and are pressing ahead with plans for the United Nations to recognise an independent Palestinian state by September, which is the deadline President Obama has apparently set for a peace deal to be reached.

        I understand Ireland, France and Sweden will become the first European states to recognise a Palestinian state in September. I will support any such move. I note two thirds of members of the United Nations will recognise a Palestinian state. If the United States uses its veto on the Security Council, the Palestinians will take their case to the General Assembly. The Palestinian issue must remain on the agenda in any debate on UN peacekeeping missions to the region.

        I offer my support and sympathy to the family of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian human rights activist who was recently murdered in Gaza. Mr. Arrigoni, who was only 36 years old, arrived in Gaza in 2008 on board a humanitarian aid boat Israel had admitted to the coastal territory despite the blockade it has imposed. I understand he was murdered by pro al-Qaeda forces. We are on the side of humanitarian activists and peace, justice and truth.

        I strongly commend the troops who have served this country overseas and shown a great commitment to the United Nations. I have the honour and privilege of having a nephew who served with the UN and my family is very proud of his role. We must pay tribute to those who lost their lives for peace. Their record in Lebanon, in particular, speaks for itself. Over the years, I have spoken to many soldiers who served in Lebanon and it is clear that the local community trusted Irish Defence Forces personnel and worked closely with them because they did not have a hidden agenda or vested interests, unlike some other countries with imperialist histories whose forces served in Lebanon. Irish troops built up good relationships with the local community in Lebanon in what was a classic example of community policing at its best. Soldiers have told me they respected and protected people on the ground, while maintaining their independence and integrity.

        To return to the other issue, when dealing with the sending of troops to Lebanon, it is important we recognise the Palestinian issue must be dealt with once and for all, and there can be no more fudges and delays. We have seen much hypocrisy from the international community in regard to the Libyan conflict, particularly in regard to the no-fly zone. I often ask myself why there was no no-fly zone when Gaza was being attacked and Palestinians were being killed. This hypocrisy must be exposed. There will never be peace in the Middle East unless we deal with this issue, as all sides to the conflict realise. If we do not bring in everybody, treat them with dignity and respect the integrity of their position, there will never be peace. This is what the United Nations should always be about.

        To come back to the role of the Defence Forces, I stress the urgent need for Ministers to be vigilant in regard to our independent foreign policy line. We must be careful in the Dáil. Although some have praised Deputy Shatter for sticking with the triple lock, there are elements within the Government, within broader society and within the Army that want to take a very pro-NATO line. It is up to us, as policy makers, to keep an eye on that. I remind those people that Irish soldiers with the UN did not just get respect in Lebanon and the wider Middle East, they earned it. They earned the respect of the people on the ground because of their impartiality and because of our history of not being associated with imperialism. To have had 70,000 soldiers serve in 40 countries is a great record, which should be strongly commended. We must remain vigilant and cautious with regard to the triple lock.

        I commend and thank the Irish soldiers and those directly involved in the United Nations missions over many years - the 70,000 soldiers who served abroad in those 40 countries. I support the motion.

        Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


        • #5
          Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Irish troops have an honourable record in their deployment in Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL mission. For that reason, there is warm affection among the people of Lebanon, particularly southern Lebanon, for Irish troops and a recognition that their role, when they were deployed there between 1978 and 2001, was a genuinely benign one and a genuine peacekeeping mission. I have no doubt, in so far as Irish troops may be deployed to Lebanon again, that they will continue to play that honourable role and will be warmly received by the majority of people in Lebanon.

          Of course, one must ask whether we should have to send troops to Lebanon. It is a serious question given the fact 47 Irish troops died in Lebanon between 1978 and 2001. There is potentially a real human cost for Irish citizens in this deployment. While one can only praise the bravery of those troops who have been stationed there in the past, or those who might go there on this occasion, for putting themselves in this situation in the interests of peacekeeping, we would all agree this is a serious business and one we would prefer not to have to do.

          While the Minister can correct me if I am wrong, he also underlined the financial cost to the State of deploying troops, suggesting it would be approximately €2 million, or more. At one level, this is money well spent if it in any way contributes to peace and peacekeeping in a conflict ridden zone. On the other hand, however, it is of course money the people in this country would rather not have to spend, given the brutal cuts and austerity that are now being imposed on them, where every euro is precious for users of public services who are under severe pressure as a result of the economic crisis, the IMF deal and so on. While we may have to do this, it is a pity we have to do it, and we should be aware there may be a human cost, as there was in the past. There will certainly be a financial cost.

          Given that, we have a responsibility to ask why we have to send these troops and what we are going to do to address the underlying reasons that peacekeeping is necessary in that area. I hope the Government will join me in acknowledging the reason we have to send troops to Lebanon is because of the continuous and relentless aggression by Israel in southern Lebanon against its people and the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.

          There is a constant, relentless history of invasion, incursion and brutal attacks by Israel against the people of Lebanon. There was invasion in 1978 and again in 1982, when Israel colluded with the right wing, fascist Lebanese Phalange, which massacred hundreds of people in the Palestinian refugee camps at Shabra and Chatila. In 1993, there was another heavy military attack by Israel into southern Lebanon and, in 1996, an Israeli bombing killed 100 Lebanese civilians in a United Nations military base at Qana, southern Lebanon. The Israeli withdrawal took place in 2000 but was followed some years later by another brutal Israeli invasion which saw 1,000 Lebanese people, mostly civilians, killed, devastation of the infrastructure, bridges, villages and roads, and the use of cluster munitions and other vile weapons against the civilian population of southern Lebanon, causing great devastation and destruction.

          Will the Government agree that, in sending our troops into this danger zone, we must condemn that history of Israeli aggression and demand of Israel that it ceases such aggression in southern Lebanon and ends its occupation of the Shebaa farms, mentioned by the previous speaker? Will the Government also agree that the root of this conflict and the problems in southern Lebanon revolve around the issue of the Palestinian refugees? Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees have been living for decades in refugee camps in southern Lebanon, without a nation or rights of any description, because they were ethnically cleansed by Zionist terror gangs in 1948, who drove them from their homeland at gunpoint, using the most vile terrorist and ethnic cleansing tactics.

          Is it not a fact, and will the Minister agree, that until the Palestinian refugees in southern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere are given the right to return to their homeland, from which they were displaced by Israel terror gangs in 1948, there will be no peace in Lebanon and we will continue to be forced to send our troops into the danger zone to deal with the consequences of that fact? Will the Minister state in the House that he agrees with United Nations Resolution 194, which insists that Palestinian refugees who were forced out in 1948 must be given the right to return and have equal citizenship rights in the land that was theirs and was stolen from them in 1948?

          A resolution demanding their right to return, which has been reaffirmed some 110 times by the United Nations since 1948, would be the simplest way to resolve this conflict. We should ask the Israeli ambassador to Ireland why his country cannot grant that simple measure which would resolve all of this. Let the refugees go home, give them equal rights, and let them live as equal citizens in the land in which their families and ancestors have lived for thousands of years. We would ask no less anywhere else - that Arab, Jew, Christian, Muslim, persons of no religion and so on should have equal rights in that land. That is what we should ask for in order to resolve this brutal and horrendous conflict which goes on and on, continuing to claim lives and to spur on violence and conflict.

          Will the Government call on the Israeli Government not to repeat its military aggression against the second international peace flotilla which will try to bring aid and support to refugees in Gaza later this year in an effort to break the inhuman and brutal siege of that region? Will the Government come out clearly in asking Israel to allow the flotilla to bring aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza? Given the gravity of a decision to send our troops into this situation, I hope we will take those types of actions and make those types of demands in order to deal with the underlying causes of the conflict in this area.

          Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


          • #6
            Deputy Clare Daly: I come from an Army family. Going back generations, members of my family have served in the Congo and in Lebanon. I am well aware that the participation of Army personnel in Lebanon is done with the best of intentions. The issue we should be discussing is why this situation has continued over decades and what it is achieving. “Keeping the peace”, as it is called, is really about maintaining the status quo and retaining a sectarian balance which is not in the interests of ordinary people in Lebanon where, like many other regions across north Africa and the Middle East, citizens are experiencing devastation of living standards and corruption by ruling elites.

            The Israeli Government continues to threaten and violate the airspace of Lebanon. These issues will not be resolved by the UN or by the main powers within that body, which consistently act in the region to prop up the interests of Israel as their watchdog in the area. However, there is a way out of this, with the solution lying with the Israeli people. I welcome the growing numbers of Israelis who are refusing to serve in or be conscripted into the country’s army. Therein lies the solution.

            If we are seriously concerned about the situation in Lebanon, then we have a responsibility to examine it more closely and to seek to develop an alternative. I welcome the development whereby people in Lebanon, in the course of the last month in particular and taking inspiration from the mass movements in north Africa, have become organised and begun to make a stand for themselves. It is through this that we will see a real alternative. In the past month there has been a growing mood of protest, beginning in a small way in Beirut where there was a demonstration by 2,000 people in very poor weather, growing the following week to 10,000 and subsequently to a demonstration in the city by 30,000 people. It is a united movement against the political and institutionalised sectarian system that exists in Lebanon.

            We are beginning to see workers and young people in that country going into poor communities and taking the battle to the interior ministry, with slogans proclaiming a revolt against sectarianism, corruption, migration and unemployment. The call of the people is for a toppling of the regime, similar to movements across the region. There is a lesson for us in this because the regime in Lebanon, under successive Governments since 1992, has become a symbol of the slasher type of approach being executed in the national economy in a pledge to carry out the diktats of the IMF and the World Bank. The cost of that is being borne by the ordinary population in Lebanon where there has been a cutting back in industrial and agricultural production, a strengthening of imports, an unemployment rate of 30% among young workers, inflation of 12%, a massive increase in electricity prices, high taxes on gasoline and so on. These are the conditions which are breeding opposition.

            It is always ordinary people, no matter which side of the sectarian divide on which they are placed, who are the victims of these crises. I support their demands for an end to the status quo. The basis for that and the way in which it will be achieved is by uniting the workers and the poor of the region against the sectarian system. It is in the interests of those at the top of society in that area to exploit religious affiliations in order to divide the people and bolster support for their own regimes, a situation we have seen not far from home. They seek to foster a quota system which enables them to divide the spoils at the top while ordinary people at the bottom lose out.

            People in Lebanon need jobs and a living wage, and I fully support their activity to meet those ends. Part of that struggle is a struggle against the status quo. The experience has been that UNIFIL and so on have not delivered democratic rights and have not delivered power to the Lebanese people to take control of the resources in their own country and use them for the benefit of the population. It is these people’s struggles, combined with the efforts of ordinary Israeli citizens who are making a stand against their Government, which will ultimately deliver a way forward for the region. They will be far more successful than the methods employed for decades.

            Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


            • #7
              Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): I thank the House for its recognition of the importance of the contribution of Ireland’s Defence Forces to international peace and security. I am grateful for the kind words, support and compliments from Deputies regarding the manner in which the Defence Forces have discharged themselves on overseas missions, in Lebanon and elsewhere. I had the privilege of visiting southern Lebanon in 2001 during the course of one of our missions there and seeing what was then Camp Shamrock, as well as local towns. It was clear in meeting with local mayors that the Defence Forces were held in very high esteem. Their humanitarian involvement locally did a great deal of good in southern Lebanon and enhanced the international reputation of this country.

              This debate reflects the high regard in which the Defence Forces are held internationally as peacekeepers. It also reflects the recognition Irish people have given to the importance of the role the forces have played abroad. No decision to return to Lebanon could be taken lightly. The previous Government made the decision and the new Government, having discussed the matter at Cabinet, reconfirmed that decision. In considering any mission, our ability to protect the health and safety of our personnel is of paramount importance. However, all missions involve some element of risk. It is fitting to recall the 47 members of the Defence Forces who have lost their lives in Lebanon over the years, some in particularly tragic circumstances. A full assessment of the UNIFIL operation has been engaged in, including a comprehensive and detailed reconnaissance by an experienced Defence Forces team, before the final decision was made. Members raised a number of issues. Essentially, this is a peacekeeping mission to seek to ensure that conflict that has occurred in the past between Israel and Lebanon does not recur and the Defence Forces have played an extremely important role in that area. No Member should simplify the nature of the difficulties that exist within that region or indeed within that area. It is important to address and consider those difficulties in this State on the basis of the complex realities on the ground, instead of through some sort of ideological straitjacket. Deputy Finian McGrath made reference to the importance of a two-state solution in a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The present Government and its predecessors have favoured fully a two-state solution and on a personal level, it is something I have advocated for many years. The difficulty is to get to a point at which such a solution may be effected. There is a range of difficulties and complexities in that regard, most of which were ignored in the speech delivered by Deputy Boyd Barrett, which perhaps may be addressed in this House on another day as it is not appropriate to deal with it in the context of this debate. It of course would be everyone’s wish that this region be settled, that the difficulties that exist be resolved and in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that ultimately a position is achieved in which there are two states living side by side in peace and harmony, each in security and focusing its efforts on economic development and co-operation to the benefit of the entire region.

              I was particularly taken by Deputy Clare Daly’s detailed description of events in Lebanon. The politics of Lebanon are particularly complex and to achieve stability, for decades the political system in Lebanon was designed around the sectarian realities of Lebanon as it then was. The nature of Lebanese society has changed over the years and in recent weeks there have been some events in the Lebanon which are reflected in other parts of the Middle East. Happily, however, the events in Lebanon have not produced violence in recent weeks and no deaths have occurred as result of them. These are matters pertaining to the internal politics of Lebanon and are not matters in which our troops will be involved or engaged in any particular way. The sending of troops, as part again of the UNIFIL mission, is not connected with those events in Lebanon but with trying to ensure that peace is maintained in southern Lebanon and in the context of the borders between Israel and Lebanon. I believe and hope that our troops will be successful in this mission and have no doubt but that they will again re-establish relationships with the local community and will enhance the reputation they previously developed when there.

              I again thank Members for their contributions and for their support for the Defence Forces. I know the Defence Forces will continue to acquit themselves well and will make a vital and important contribution to the success of the UNIFIL mission as they have done on so many occasions in the past. A mixed mission between Irish and Finnish troops is a continuity with what has occurred on occasions and I greatly welcome the future involvement of Finnish troops, who I expect will join the Irish contingent towards the end of 2011 or by January 2012 as the very latest. The requisite steps must be taken in Finland in the context of putting into place the appropriate arrangements in that regard.

              I will conclude by commending the individual members of the Permanent Defence Force, who have served and who continue to serve on overseas missions, together with their family and loved ones. Ireland’s substantial contribution to international peace support operations depends on the ongoing commitment of Defence Forces personnel to serve overseas in often difficult and dangerous circumstances. Their commitment, service and loyalty to the traditions of the Defence Forces on overseas service contributes extensively to the high regard in which Ireland is held within the international community. I believe the deployment that will now take place will add to that high regard and will continue to play in important role in attempting to ensure that peace is maintained in what is a very difficult and troubled region.

              Question put and agreed to.

              Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


              • #8
                It begs several questions: is the mandate any more realistic than the last one? Will the usual rules apply, in that the Israelis will shoot at who they like, including clearly marked UN posts and the UN won't respond, except to mildly chastise, knowing that Obama will back them 110%, or that the South Lebanon is really controlled by Hizbollah and not ruled, except at a most basic level, by Beirut. I sincerely hope that no Irish or any other UN die there, as it's a pointless duty.


                • #9
                  here here, GTTC. Only benefit may be a reduction in cost to the state , some PR, allowances for the guys , and lots of visits from Ministers etc ,,
                  Not really soldiering in many ways ...but waht else is possible, Ivory coast..Unlikely, Congo, UN want to reduce, Afghanistan? will never happen .. just hope there is no loss of life.


                  • #10
                    Well there is always the possibility of service in Libya once the dust settles!

                    An old comrade who was serving with me in "C" Company 46th IRISHBATT is amongst those heading back to South Lebanon, I wish him and his comrades the very best of luck and a safe trip.

                    Connaught Stranger.


                    • #11
                      According to an An Cosantoir article Irishbatt will be deployed as follows:

                      HQ will be at 6-5 in Tibnine (not former-Camp Shamrock (currently occupied by a Malaysian battalion)
                      There will be 2 outposts at 6-50 and 6-52 along the Blue Line

                      Naquora is no longer used for R&R, Beruit is currently out of bounds due to the security state and travel to Lebanon is only currently possible via Cyprus or Jordan.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DeV View Post
                        According to an An Cosantoir article Irishbatt will be deployed as follows:

                        HQ will be at 6-5 in Tibnine (not former-Camp Shamrock (currently occupied by a Malaysian battalion)
                        There will be 2 outposts at 6-50 and 6-52 along the Blue Line

                        Naquora is no longer used for R&R, Beruit is currently out of bounds due to the security state and travel to Lebanon is only currently possible via Cyprus or Jordan.
                        The new AO is a shit hole-plain and simple,

                        The Irish were supposed to go to an AO which roughly parraled the coast from

                        Tyre to the old Charlie swing gate- this would have meant that they would have the

                        pleasure of a Med type summer cooled by sea breezes and a mild winter- now its

                        back to the same old shite area and a long stinking hot dusty summer followed by a

                        long grey wet windy and cold winter.

                        All the Irish troops can blame that prick Nabbi Berri- If they want to the can extract

                        revenge by going to the rear wall of the crusader castle and pissing into Berri's back

                        Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
                        Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
                        The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere***
                        The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
                        The best lack all conviction, while the worst
                        Are full of passionate intensity.


                        • #13
                          I'm guessing the continuing situation in Syria is not going to make life any easier either, though probably not as much in the Irish AO.
                          Who will be in At Tiri?

                          Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


                          • #14
                            No chance of a couple of AW139s going with them, I suppose? What sort of helicopter support will UNIFIL provide for the Irish contingent, for casevac, medevac, and general communications and liaison duties? Will the UAVs be going?


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Goldie fish View Post
                              I'm guessing the continuing situation in Syria is not going to make life any easier either, though probably not as much in the Irish AO.
                              Who will be in At Tiri?
                              We might not have a presence there at all GF. Smaller Unit size will dictate troop positions..