Some 400 Irish troops will be finally deployed to Chad at the end of the month, the Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea confirmed today.
The EU-mandated mission, which will protect refugee camps, was delayed by several weeks due to a lack of helicopters and medical facilities.
A high-level meeting in Brussels today confirmed that the operation, led by Lt General Pat Nash, can now proceed at the end of January or early February.
Mr O’Dea said: “While the process has taken longer than anticipated, it has reached a successful conclusion in the end.
“The launch of this mission demonstrates the potential of the European Union to respond to conflict and humanitarian crisis.
“The mission is also evidence of the important role the EU can play in support of the United Nations, which authorised the mission.”
The mission comprising 3,700 troops will now be equipped with helicopters by France and medical facilities by Italy.
The decision to launch the mission is expected to be rubber-stamped at the General and External Relations Council of the EU on January 28.
“It is expected that the first Irish troops will be on the ground early in February,” Mr O’Dea added.
The minister said he recently wrote to his EU colleagues emphasising the importance of the mission both for the EU and for the people of Chad and the Central African Republic.
“Many member states already have very substantial and extensive commitments in the Balkans, the Middle East and Afghanistan. I am relieved therefore that they were able to respond positively to the crisis in Chad.”
The EU sanctioned the Chad troop deployment in December in an effort to protect refugee camps housing more than 400,000 Chadian and Sudanese refugees fleeing the violence in Darfur.
Troops from France, Sweden, Poland and Romania will make up the rest of the mission.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern inspected the troops and equipment at McKee Barracks in Dublin on Monday and wished them well on their mission.