The UN Security Council voted in New York yesterday to take over the EU-led mission by March 15. Soldier numbers under the UN, however, will be boosted from the EU force’s of 3,500 to about 5,200, as part of the resolution voted through, which includes peacekeeping in parts of the Central African Republic as well as Chad. This would mean a request for extra troops from countries on the ground, including possibly Ireland, who are the second largest contributor of troops after France.
Ireland’s overseas capacity of troops is capped at about 860. Some 756 are currently deployed abroad, including the 400 in Chad, another 200 in Kosovo and 65 in Bosnia, the defence minister’s spokeswoman confirmed last night.
The troops in Bosnia are scheduled to return home in June meaning that Ireland would have close to 150 troops available for overseas service, it was also confirmed.
Defence Minister Willie O’Dea yesterday welcomed the vote to hand over the mission to the UN, which will see soldiers wear the traditional UN Blue Beret.
Earlier at an inspection of troops at McKee Barracks, Dublin, ahead of their departure for Chad, Mr O’Dea warned it was important there was no lapse in governing peace operations while the UN took over. “It is important that we do not have an interregnum in the security situation and continue to facilitate the UN’s operation planning and the force generation process.”
Mr O’Dea must seek approval from the cabinet as well as the Dáil on the UN takeover which is expected to be just a formality. A huge advantage will be that, unlike the EU-led mission, the UN will reimburse the Irish taxpayer.