The Irish Examiner exclusively revealed last June that Naval Service ships operating in the Mediterranean Sea would soon be adopting a more robust role in the fight against IS terrorists and people-smugglers, profiteering from the misery of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and Sub-Saharan Africa who are desperate to flee their famine-ridden and war-torn countries for a better life in Europe.
Over the last three years, the navy has been operating under the auspices of Operation Pontus, which primarily focused on migrant rescues and was formed under a bilateral agreement with the Italian authorities.
During that time, naval crews helped save some 16,000 people who had been packed into unseaworthy fishing boats and leaking dinghies which had no chance of making it to Italy or Malta.
The Department of Defence last night confirmed that when LÉ Niamh departs its base at Haulbowline in Cork next week, she will take a more robust role as part of a 25-nation blockage force, known as ‘Operation Sophia’, the objectives of which are ‘seek and destroy’ operations against people-smuggling operations launched from Libya.
LÉ Niamh, captained by Lieutenant Commander Stuart Armstrong, will join the EU taskforce as soon as his ship arrives in the area of operations, expected to be around October 14/15.
Senior figures in the Defence Forces previously told department officials it was vital the Naval Service join the EU Navfor mission (Operation Sophia), whose member nations are attempting to intercept arms shipments to terrorists, under an UN mandate, and gain vital intelligence on them, while preventing hapless migrants being launched into deathtrap boats.
Intelligence reports point to IS profiteering from cash being paid by refugees who are loaded onto deathtrap boats which aren’t equipped to make the perilous crossing from Libya to southern Europe.