Defence Minister Simon Coveney will bring a report to Cabinet this morning on the Navy’s involvement in the mission since May, which has seen the crews of the LÉ Eithne and LÉ Niamh, which is still on deployment in the region, save more than 5,000 refugees.
Mr Coveney declined to be drawn on his recommendations but he said they will not come as a surprise to many.
“As I said through the summer, if I feel or the Government feels that Ireland should stay as part of that mission for another two months or so, then I won’t be shy about bringing our recommendation forward,” he said. “But I want to discuss it with my Cabinet colleagues first.
“It has been an extraordinary mission. It has gone way beyond what people were expecting of it at the start. I think the Naval Service have shown themselves to be remarkably professional under pressure.”
His comments come as donations flood in for a major aid convoy, organised by Cork businesswoman Tracey Ryan, which is bound for refugees stranded at Calais at the end of the month.
“I’ve seen the TV images and the photographs and just felt compelled to act,” said Ms Ryan.
She organised the relief effort through the Cork Calais Refugee Solidarity group on Facebook with donations of food, clothing, and medical supplies pouring in to a warehouse in Cork City from all over the country.
As of yesterday, the convoy, which is being supported by Stena Line from Rosslare, included a four-tonne capacity truck, nine vans, six cars, a camper van, and a mini-bus, as well as 34 volunteers who aim to spend up to a week distributing the aid with French charity L’Auberge des Migrants.
Ms Ryan, who is five months pregnant and who plans to spend a week in Calais co-ordinating the relief effort, urged people to continue donating items such as men’s clothing, tents, blankets, and money for food, ahead of a major collection day on Saturday at the warehouse at the Marina Commercial Park in the city.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Coveney attended the commissioning ceremony for LÉ James Joyce in Dun Laoghaire yesterday.
The new 90m long vessel, built by Babcock Marine in Devon, has a crew of 44 and is captained by Lieutenant Commander Brian Dempsey, a native of Glasnevin who lives in Glanmire, Co Cork.
The ship’s size and stability systems ensure it can remain on patrol in weather conditions that would force other ships to seek shelter.
It is also very energy efficient, with two electrical motors that can be used to drive each propeller shaft. With a speed of up to nine knots in ideal conditions, they give significant fuel savings for comparable speeds on main diesel engines.
Because of additional fuel capacity, the ship has a greater range than other ships, thus enabling her operate for longer periods of time before refuelling.