Naval Service awaits green light to join EU fleet to fight piracy

The Naval Service’s most senior officer says his personnel are ready and willing to create history by joining anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa.

Commodore Hugh Tully told the Irish Examiner he hoped the Government — currently considering sending an Irish ship to aid an EU force there — will give the green light for the operation.

It would be the first time the Naval Service has ever been involved in such a mission.

While it has sent ships as “floating ambassadors” to support IDA/Enterprise Ireland tours around the world and has resupplied Irish UN troops in the Lebanon, it has never engaged in a multi-national taskforce before.

“It’s well within our capacity to do this. We have the capabilities to board vessels and inspect them. We haven’t got the green light yet but it would be good for our personnel,” Commodore Tully said.

“If we could do this, it would be good from a professional point of view and I would hope that it would not be the last of such missions.”

If given the go-ahead, the navy would be expected to send a ship to the EU protection fleet for a 90-day duration, although the senior officer said that this could be tailored to suit any individual country’s commitments.

He insisted the remaining seven ships of the fleet could come up to the plate to ensure their obligations to sea fishery protection and drug shipment intercepts could still be handled.

Piracy in the region has been a growing threat to security, international shipping and development since the mid-2000s.

The EU launched European Naval Force Somalia — Operation Atalanta — in December 2008 with the objective of protecting food deliveries to the region and repressing of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast.

Commodore Tully said the Naval Service wants to play its part in protecting the vulnerable and the world economy.

“We need to protect starving people from having the food taken from their mouths.

“Also, if a major oil tanker is seized it will undoubtedly increase prices at the petrol pumps. This has to have a knock-on effect on prices at pumps in Europe and here in Ireland,” he said.

It is unlikely that Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney will put a proposal to the Cabinet for Irish involvement in the EU-led force until later in the year.

The army is already involved in an EU force, the Nordic Battlegroup, which is on standby until June 30 to go to trouble spots around the world if it is needed for humanitarian-led interventions.

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