Oral Questions – Defence – Lariam, Golan Heights, LÉ Clíona, Horizon 2020

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Clare challenged the Minister for Defence on a number of issues, including the deployment of Irish soldiers to the Golan Heights in light of Israel finding and intending to claim oil on territory outside its own; the continuing practice of prescribing Lariam as the preferred anti-malarial to Irish soldiers in Sub-Saharan Africa, something which puts Ireland at odds with prescribing policies in the UK and the US, amongst others; Horizon 2020; and the progress of the review of the fire on board the LÉ Clíona on 29 May 1962. You can read Clare’s questions and his answers below.

To ask the Minister for Defence if he has received the report of the Working Group on the use of Lariam in the Defence Forces; and if he will outline its contents. DEPUTY CLARE DALY.

FOR WRITTEN ANSWER ON TUESDAY, 26TH JANUARY, 2016.

Ref No: 2954/16 Proof: 78 Order: 254

REPLY

Minister for Defence (Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D.):

I wish to advise the Deputy that I am currently awaiting the report of the Group and its findings.

As I indicated to the House previously, this group re-convened in August 2015. The purpose of the Group is to review issues arising in relation to the use of Lariam, particularly in the context of the current and potential litigation; to review and confirm the Defence Forces approach in relation to the use of malaria chemoprophylaxis in the Defence Forces; and to ensure that the procedures in relation thereto continue to be appropriate and in accordance with best medical practice as promulgated by the relevant medical authorities. In addition, the Group is now reviewing the use of the drug Primaquine as part of the overall medical treatment process for those deployed to malarious areas.

The Group is also reviewing developments in the context of the Defence Forces use of malaria chemoprophylaxis with particular focus on updated patient safety information, changes to Summary Product Characteristics, changes in product licensing/authorisation, identification of any new anti-malarial medications on the market and national and international expert advices on the use of malaria chemoprophylaxis and its usage in other Armed Forces.

The Group originally reported in 2013. As I have previously advised the House, the Report was produced in the context of current and potential litigation and is, therefore, legally privileged. Any further report prepared by the re-convened Group will also be produced in the context of current and potential litigation and will, therefore, be legally privileged.

QUESTION NO: 50

To ask the Minister for Defence if he will review the deployment of Irish troops to the Golan Heights, given that Israel has indicated that it intends to claim oil found in the Golan Heights as its own, in contravention of international law, and the ongoing failure of the United National Disengagement Observer Force mission to achieve the goals laid out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. – DEPUTY CLARE DALY.

FOR PRIORITY ANSWER ON TUESDAY, 26TH JANUARY, 2016.

Ref No: 2951/16 Lottery: 3 Proof: 74

REPLY

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was established on 31 May 1974 by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 350 (1974), following the agreed disengagement of the Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights in May 1974.

UNDOF was established to:

·   Maintain the ceasefire between Israel and Syria;
·   Supervise the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces; and
·   Supervise the areas of separation and limitation, as provided in the May 1974 Agreement on Disengagement.
Since 1974, the mandate of UNDOF has been renewed every six months, most recently renewed in June 2015 until 30 June 2016 under UNSCR 2257 (2015).

A contingent of the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 131 personnel, has been deployed to the UNDOF on the Golan Heights since 2013. Eight (8) other Defence Forces personnel are also deployed in UNDOF Headquarters, including the Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier General Anthony Hanlon.

The UNDOF mission has faced a challenging time recently. The escalation of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic has affected the mission’s area of operations. Following the significant events in August 2014 in the area of separation, there was a fundamental realignment of the UNDOF mission with a view to minimizing unacceptable risks to peacekeepers, while continuing to implement the mission’s mandate. Most UNDOF personnel, including the Irish contingent, are now deployed on the Israeli side of the area of separation. As such, they are not within the area of separation where significant fighting is taking place.

In the most recent report on UNDOF, the UN Secretary-General has stated that the continued presence of UNDOF in the area remains essential and that both Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic have stated their continued commitment to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and the presence of UNDOF. In order to implement its mandate, UNDOF continues to engage with the parties on practical arrangements to allow the Force to continue to maintain the ceasefire from the Israeli occupied side of the Golan Heights.

The presence of the UNDOF mission remains an important element in ensuring the continuing ceasefire between Israel and Syria and in the wider Middle East region.

SIMON COVENEY, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

QUESTION NO : 52

To ask the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question Number 69 of 24 November 2015, if he is concerned that Lariam is a third-line drug for the military of the United States of America in sub-Saharan Africa, and is only issued for personnel who are unable to receive either of the other anti-Malarial regimens, that its issue is accompanied by a wallet card and current safety information from that country’s Food and Drug Administration indicating the possibility that the neurologic side-effects may persist or become permanent; and given this, why, as noted in his reply to Parliamentary Question Number 12 of 4 January 2015, the Malaria Chemoprophylactic agent of choice by the Irish Defence Forces for use in sub-Saharan Africa continues to be Lariam..
DEPUTY CLARE DALY .

FOR PRIORITY ANSWER ON TUESDAY, 26TH JANUARY, 2016.

Ref No: 2952/16 Lottery: 5 Proof: 76

REPLY

The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces is a priority for me and the Defence Forces. As I have previously indicated to the Deputy, the choice of medication for overseas deployment, including the use of Lariam, is a medical decision which is 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.

The Deputy must appreciate that the choice of malaria chemoprophylaxis for use by other armed forces is an internal matter for those forces. It would be inappropriate for me, to comment on other States’ policy in this regard.

Significant precautions are taken by Irish Defence Forces Medical Officers in assessing the medical suitability of members of our 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. Where the overseas mission is to a malaria-prone region, 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 approved summary of product characteristics.

Simon Coveney, T.D., Minister for Defence

QUESTION NO:  57

To ask the Minister for Defence given evidence presented at the United Kingdom Parliament Defence Committee’s Inquiry on Lariam on 13 January 2016 that noted the impossibility of being 100 per cent certain that in every case, an individual is in fact individually assessed prior to being prescribed Lariam, how certain he is that every member of the Defence Forces is individually assessed prior to being prescribed Lariam; in what year individual assessment became Defence Forces policy; and the operational procedures in place to both facilitate and ensure individual assessment prior to prescribing Lariam..

DEPUTY CLARE DALY

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 26th January, 2016.

Ref No: 2793/16     Lottery: 5

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 our 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 am advised by the Director Medical Branch that this has been the policy since the Defence Forces first embarked on overseas service.

Where the overseas mission is to a malaria-prone region, 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 approved summary of product characteristics. Every effort is made by Defence Forces Medical Officers to ensure compliance with this screening policy.

Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D. Minister for Defence

QUESTION NO: 58

To ask the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question Number 19 of 8 October 2015, if any consortium in which the Defence Forces are involved has been successful in its bid for Horizon 2020; the contents of the winning proposals and the identities of those involved in the winning consortium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. DEP UT Y CLARE DALY

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON TUESDAY, 26th JANUARY, 2016

REPLY

I have recently been informed that a Horizon 2020 bid which involves the Defence Forces as a consortium member has recently been successful.

The scope of the project is to develop mobile, remotely-controlled technologies to enable an improved identification and detection of Chemical Biological Radioactive Nuclear (CBRN) materials and collection of forensic evidence in a variety of situation and conditions. The overall goal of the project is to fundamentally change how CBRN events are assessed and ensure the safety of Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel and crime scene investigators by reducing the need for them to enter a dangerous scene to gather evidence.

The role of the Ordnance Corps is to participate as “end users” and they will assist in developing scenarios and assessing results.

The project will be led by NUI Galway and involves a number of Irish entities. A number of other countries are also represented in the consortium. While the project has been main-listed for funding, no contract has been awarded yet, and it would therefore be premature to disclose further details in relation to the project and other consortium members at this time.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution being made by Defence Organisation in its engagement with Irish-based institutions for research purposes. These collaborations contribute to Defence Forces’ capabilities and also support Ireland’s economic development.

This latest achievement will undoubtedly open doors for further collaborations between the Defence Organisation and Research Institutes and Companies.

SIMON COVENEY, T.D. MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

QUESTION NO: 61

To ask the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question Number 287 of 24 November 2015, if he has received the findings and recommendations of the review of the fire on board the LÉ Clíona on 29 May 1962; if he has considered those findings; and the steps he will take on foot of them.   DEPUTY CLARE DALY

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON TUESDAY 26th JANUARY 2016

REPLY

The provisions for the award of military medals are incorporated in Defence Force Regulations A9 (New Series) – ‘Dress and Medals’. The Regulations provide that a recommendation for the award of the Distinguished Service Medal must be made and forwarded to the Chief of Staff not later than four years after the performance of the act in respect of which the recommendation is made.

I have been advised by the military authorities that there is no record of such a recommendation having been made, at the time of the event or at any time since, for the actions taken by the two individuals that have been the subject of a number of representations that I have recently received on the matter .

The report into the incident acknowledges the performance of these two men, along with the rest of the ship’s company, in extinguishing the fire on the LÉ Clíona in May 1962. It makes no recommendation in relation to the award of any medal or citation.

In light of the representations that I received in relation to retrospective awards for the two individuals,   I requested that the Chief of Staff have the circumstances surrounding the incident on board the LÉ Cliona on 29 May 1962 reviewed.

The review has yet to be finalised . I will consider the findings and recommendations of that review once it has been submitted   by the Chief of Staff. I am advised that the Report is nearing completion and I anticipate I will be in receipt of same in the coming weeks .

SIMON COVENEY, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

QUESTION NO: 63

To ask the Minister for Defence the details of his recent discussions with his European Union counterparts in relation to the possibility of increased numbers of Irish troops being sent to Mali.

– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 26th January, 2016.

Ref No: 2797/16 Lottery: 12

REPLY

The Department of Defence constantly reviews the deployment of Defence Forces personnel overseas. With regard to any future deployments of Defence Forces personnel overseas, Ireland receives requests, from time to time, in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis.

As the Deputy is aware, I recently attended the meeting of Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers, which took place in Brussels on 17th November 2015 at which my French colleague, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drein, invoked Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union, following the tragic events in Paris on 13 November.

Following that invocation there has been ongoing liaison between officials from my Department and French authorities at which various options for how Ireland could be of assistance are being explored. One option being explored is examining what support Ireland may be able to offer to missions which suffer gaps as a result of France or other nations withdrawing forces to undertake alternative operations. This includes the possibility for the potential enhancement of our current deployment to the EU Training Mission in Mali to which 10 members of the Permanent Defence Force are deployed.

The purpose of any deployment of additional Defence Forces personnel would be to ensure the continued effectiveness of UN mandated missions. To inform my consideration of this issue, the military authorities recently visited both the UN mission (MINUSMA) and EUTM Mali. I plan to bring forward proposals to Government for approval to allow for the deployment of some additional trainers and mission support staff in the EU Training mission in Mali. The issue of providing support to the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA will be kept under review.

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