Dáil Questions on Defence -Defence Forces in Mali, Lariam, White Paper on Defence, Israeli arms imports, EU Battlegroups

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Dáil Issues, Defence, Oral Questions, Parliamentary Questions

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney was up on Tuesday for questions, Clare asked him a few, The suggestion that Irish troops are deployed to Mali was among them as well as a question about import and export of arms with Israel and the Irish Army’s continued use of the controversial drug Larium which can have very serious side effects. See replies below:

To ask the Minister for Defence the merits he envisage in Irish Defence Forces personnel being deployed to Mali to relieve French troops, given the history of that country.

– Deputy Clare Daly.



In August 2014 French forces deployed to Mali at a critical time, at the request of the Mali Government. Since then, two


additional missions, the EU training mission EUTM Mali and a UN Blue Hat Mission Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), both mandated by the UN, have deployed to Mali in support of the Government of Mali. This reflects the real and substantive threat to the sovereignty of that State and its legitimate Government.


The situation in Northern and Eastern Mali remains difficult as evidenced by recent events. The anti-terrorist military operation Barkhane in Africa’s Sahel
region, is being implemented  by France on a bi-lateral basis, in partnership with Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, as well as Mali. Defence Forces personnel will not become involved in this mission.


As the Deputy will also be aware, on 18 February 2013 the EU launched the EU Military Training Mission (EUTM) Mali, a CSDP mission to train and mentor the Malian Armed Forces (MAF) to improve their military capacity and their effectiveness in guaranteeing the country’s territorial integrity. The mission has two aims: (1) to reform the chain of command in areas of training, logistics and military policy to ensure compliance with civilian authority and (2) to re-structure and train MAF units. There are 10 members of the Permanent Defence Force deployed to EUTM Mali, of whom six are part of a joint UK/Ireland training contingent. There are also currently 13 French personnel deployed to this mission.


A UN stabilisation force, Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), is currently deployed to stabilise the country following the Tuareg rebellion. On 29th June 2015, the UN Security Council extended the mandate until 30 June 2016, within an authorised troop ceiling of 11,240 military personnel, including, for the first time, at least 40 military observers in order to monitor and supervise the country’s ceasefire. France has 24 military and 5 police personnel deployed to this mission. Ireland is not currently participating in this mission.


Following the invoking of Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union, by the French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drein, at the recent meeting of EU Defence Ministers in Brussels, it is expected that the framework within which the French authorities will request the aid and assistance required, military and otherwise, will be clarified in the coming days. I will report to Government in due course on any potential Defence Forces contribution. It goes without saying that any potential contribution will be considered within the framework of the Irish Constitution and Irish law.



















                                                                                                                                                                                                 QUESTION NO: 69


To ask the Minister for Defence in view of the paper published by Dr. Ashley Croft in the Pharmaceutical Journal on 12 November 2015 urging the discontinuance of the use of Lariam for United Kingdom Defence Forces and growing calls for ceasing its use for Irish Defence Forces, if he will immediately order the cessation of this practice pending the publication of the findings of the working group into the drug..




For PRIORITY answer on Tuesday, 24th November, 2015.


Ref No: 41376/15 Lottery: 5 Proof: 106








I am aware of the paper recently published to which the Deputy refers and the ongoing debate relating to the use of Lariam. The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces is a priority for me. As I have already indicated to the House, the choice of medication for overseas deployment, including the use of Lariam, is a medical decision made by Medical Officers in the Irish Defence Forces, having regard to the specific circumstances of the mission and the individual member of the Irish Defence Forces.


Significant precautions are taken by Irish Defence Forces Medical Officers in assessing the medical suitability of members of the Irish Defence Forces to take any of the anti-malarial medications. It is the policy of the Irish Defence Forces that personnel are individually screened for fitness for service overseas and medical suitability, i.e. a medical risk assessment for Lariam is carried out on an individual basis. The Irish Defence Forces policy in relation to the use of anti-malarial medication is in line with current Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) approved summary of product characteristics (SmPC).


As I previously indicated to the House, my Department established a working group in January 2011 to examine the use of Lariam and other anti-malarial drugs in the Defence Forces. The Group produced its report to a former Minister for Defence in 2013. I am advised that the Group investigated the allegations surrounding the use of Lariam and obtained the advice of leading medical experts, who concurred with the prescribing practices followed by the Defence Forces.


Since production of its Report, members of the working group have continued to monitor developments in the area of malaria chemoprophylaxis.


My Department has recently re-convened the Malaria Chemoprophylaxis Working Group. The group is engaging once again with experts, both nationally and internationally in relation to the use of Lariam and other anti-malarial drugs in the Defence Forces. The Group will also review the use of the drug Primaquine as part of the overall medical treatment process for Defence Forces personnel deployed to malarious areas. The Group will report back to me on the matter.


Since my last last discussion with the Deputy, I have met with senior management from my Department and the Defence Forces, including the Director of the Medical Branch and received a detailed briefing on some of the issues raised during recent parliamentary questions.  I am satisfied at this point in time on the basis of that briefing, that the current approach is based on the best possible medical advice available.  However, as I have already advised the Deputy, a further detailed review is currently ongoing, including consultation with national and international experts and I expect to receive that report shortly.  I can assure the Deputy that prescribing of Lariam is done on the basis of the best medical advice available to the Defence Forces and that the issue is subject to ongoing and continuous review.



The Deputy will appreciate that Malaria is a very serious disease killing approximately 1 million people per year in sub-Saharan Africa alone. It is a grave threat to any military force operating in the area. Anti-malarial medications, including Lariam, remains in the formulary of medications prescribed by the Medical Corps for Defence Forces personnel on appropriate overseas missions, to ensure that our military personnel can have effective protection from the very serious risks posed by this highly dangerous disease.



Simon Coveney, T.D.,

Minister for Defence







                                                                                                                                                                                                QUESTION NO: 72


To ask the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that due regard was given to the potential pitfalls of military Keynesianism for Irish Defence policy and Irish neutrality in the discussions surrounding the drawing up of the White Paper on Defence.





For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 24th November, 2015.










The policies that the Government have pursued have seen the return of strong economic growth. Defence Vote 36 expenditure has remained largely stable since this Government came into power.  It is evident therefore that military Keynesianism has not been one of those policies. 


The White Paper on Defence, which was published in August, considers future requirements and sets out the defence policy response to a broad range of security threats. It confirms that security is a whole of Government concern and that defence is a key element of the State’s overarching security architecture. It sets out the Government’s approach to Defence of the State, reiterates the State’s policy of military neutrality and emphasises the centrality of the United Nations and our engagement with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy as part of the multi-lateral response to complex inter-related security challenges.


The White Paper sets out how the Defence Forces will: support domestic security (including the provision of supports to other Government Departments and Agencies in the event of major emergencies); and support the maintenance of international peace and security and provide a broad range of non-security related supports. The White Paper updates the roles of the Defence Forces having regard to these many requirements.


The White Paper sets out capability priorities for the Defence Forces into the future in order to ensure that they can fulfil all roles assigned. It highlights that significant additional funding is required in order to maintain existing levels of capability. In this context, any additional defence funding is linked to capability requirements as opposed to seeking to generate a stimulus effect, although any local economic benefits would be welcomed.


I make no apologies for seeking additional defence investment and I recently secured a commitment from Government for a capital allocation of €437m for the period 2016-2021 under the recently announced ‘Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021 Plan’. I am satisfied that this is necessary to ensure that the Defence Forces retain the capabilities to fulfil all roles assigned by Government.


Finally, I would also like to remind the Deputy that Ireland’s defence expenditure is significantly less than other neutral or non-aligned countries in the EU e.g. Austria, Sweden and Finland.



                             MINISTER FOR DEFENCE









To ask the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question Number 6 of 25 June 2015, if he has been involved in any recent discussions at European Union level regarding the import/export of arms from Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter.













I have not been involved in any discussions at European Union level regarding the import or export of arms from Israel.


I have previously outlined to the Deputy and the House the position with regard to the procurement of defensive equipment by the Department of Defence.


I have also explained the scale and type of such equipment that the Department has acquired from Israeli companies in recent years and the purpose of such acquisitions which is to afford the greatest possible force protection and operational effectiveness to Irish Defence Forces personnel particularly on overseas service.


The matter of barring Israeli companies from entering tender competitions for the provision of military goods would be akin to Ireland unilaterally placing an embargo on such goods from Israel and this raises, inter alia, serious implications for Irish foreign policy which are outside my remit as Minister for Defence. As the Deputy is aware, trade policy and market access are largely EU competencies and any restriction or ban on imports from any particular country would have to be concerted at EU level.


As I have said in the past, the manner in which the Department of Defence procures both goods and services remains constant with international best practice and is in line with EU and UN decisions on trade embargoes. I do not, therefore, envisage any change to our current procurement practices.







                                                                                                                                                                                                QUESTION NO: 77


To ask the Minister for Defence his plans to allow the international defence industry to have increased access to the Defence Forces for product testing, with regard to whether safeguards are in place to ensure that such co-operation does not involve companies or countries who are known to be involved in funding and supplying ISIS; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Clare Daly.










As I have previously stated to the House, the Government approved arrangements in July 2011 , whereby Enterprise Ireland (EI) would support the Department of Defence and Defence Forces capability development through engagement with Irish-based enterprise and research institutes on the use and application of innovative civilian technologies in the military sphere. At the time of th e decision, the Defence Forces were already engaged with Irish enterprise and various consortia in support of research on a range of capabilities. This engagement included EU funded research projects under framework 7 and Horizon 2020 and projects being undertaken within the framework of the European Defence Agency. The Government decision allowed for greater engagement with EI and EI supported companies which could contribute to Defence Forces capabilities across the full range of its activities.

Subject to the provisions of the Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions Act) 2009, the Defence Forces participate in relevant capability development projects at European level under the umbrella of the European Defence Agency. Enterprise Ireland also support Irish based enterprise and research institutes in accessing research opportunities in the European Defence Agency. 


Through the Irish Maritime Energy and Resource Cluster (IMERC), which is a partnership of the Naval Service, University College Cork, and Cork Institute of Technology, the Naval Service has been involved in various initiatives with Enterprise Ireland within its capability requirements sphere. Essentially these are dual use projects where the technologies have application in both the civil and military field.


The Defence Forces are a military force. Given the nature of their role on robust overseas operations, they need access to the latest communications and surveillance technologies and weapons systems in order to carry out their duties safely and effectively. This means having weapons guidance systems, simulators, surveillance systems, communications, robots and drones along with all the other elements of force protection.


I can confirm that there are no proposals to support the development of an armaments industry in Ireland. However, there are opportunities to develop new technologies and to further develop and enhance existing systems and capabilities which will have dual military and civil application through engagement between Irish enterprise and research centres and the Defence Forces. The aim is to maximise synergies across both the civil and military domains and to develop leading edge technology and systems here in Ireland.









                                                                                                                                                            QUESTION NO: 86


To ask the Minister for Defence his views on Ireland’s participation in a European Union battlegroup, led by Germany, to be established next year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.









Participation in EU Battlegroups demonstrates Ireland’s commitment to the development of EU capabilities in the area of crisis management and contributes to our overall credibility within the Union. Ireland’s


continuing active engagement in EU Battlegroups enhances our capacity to influence the ongoing development and evolution of the rapid response capacity of the EU, in particular, the role Battlegroups can play in reinforcing and acting as a strategic reserve for UN operations.


The United Nations strongly supports the development of Battlegroups as a capability that could be made available in support of UN mandated missions. It also supports the development of rapid deployment skills and capabilities within the Defence Forces, together with improved interoperability with like-minded States. Participation in EU Battlegroups further supports Ireland’s international security and defence policy and enhances our bilateral relations with contributing Member States.


The 2016 German led Battlegroup will comprise Germany, acting as Framework Nation, Ireland, Luxembourg, Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. The total number of Irish Defence Forces personnel involved in this Battlegroup will be approximately 175 personnel. The Defence Forces contribution will involve a Recce/ISTAR Company together with staff posts at both the Operational and Force headquarters. The role of a Recce/ISTAR Company is to generate and deliver specific information and intelligence to decision makers in support of the planning and conduct of operations. ISTAR can be characterised as the co-ordinated direction, collection, processing and dissemination of timely, accurate, relevant and reliable information and intelligence.


As is the case in all Battlegroups, each participant retains the right to deploy or not to deploy its forces, irrespective of an EU decision to launch a Battlegroup operation. Equally, each Battlegroup participant retains the sovereign right to withdraw its contingent at any time. Accordingly, any deployment of the Irish contribution as part of the German Battlegroup will be subject to the “Triple-Lock”


PQ No: 41205/15






                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    QUESTION NO: 92


To ask the Minister for Defence if his Department has engaged in consultations with the Department of Justice and Equality regarding the implications of the Paris terrorist attack for Ireland, with particular reference to whether any discussion took place regarding developing our peacekeeping expertise..












Whilst matters of internal security are primarily the responsibility of the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána, there is ongoing liaison between my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to such matters.

Following the Paris attacks, there have been discussions between officials at the most senior level in relation to the implications for Ireland. Furthermore, I have had discussions with both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and Equality and I have been briefed by the Secretary General of my Department and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces.


In addition, there is ongoing and close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces regarding security matters, including arrangements for Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) deployments. The provision of ATCP is one of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces and, in practice, this means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so.  Regular coordination and liaison meetings also take place between the Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána in relation to ATCP issues.


With regard to developing peacekeeping expertise,  the current contribution of some 494 personnel to 12 overseas missions reflects the Government’s continued commitment to our responsibilities in the area of international peace and security.  Ireland receives requests, from time to time, in relation to further participation of Defence Forces personnel in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis having regard to the objectives of the mission, clar ity of mandate, the potential to contribut e to a political solution, consideration of how the mission relates to the priorities of Irish foreign policy and the degree of risk involved.


Simon Coveney, T.D.

Minister for Defence.

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