Ireland unlikely to take part in EU mission to strife-hit CAR

Gilmore says Ireland ‘already heavily committed’ with troops in Lebanon and near Syria

French troops secure an area after protesters set fires on a street in Bangui, Central African Republic, yesterday.  Photograph: Emmanuel Braun/Reuters

French troops secure an area after protesters set fires on a street in Bangui, Central African Republic, yesterday. Photograph: Emmanuel Braun/Reuters

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 16:44

The European Union has agreed to send a military mission to the Central African Republic (CAR), though Ireland is unlikely to participate.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore confirmed that Ireland is unlikely to participate in the EU mission to the CAR agreed upon today in Brussels by EU foreign ministers.

“I think it is unlikely that Ireland will participate in that mission as we are already heavily committed with the troops,” he said ahead of the meeting, pointing out that Ireland is already committed in terms of troops in Lebanon and near the Syrian border.

“I think it is understood among other countries that we are already very heavily committed in our overseas commitments by our defence forces.”

While EU foreign ministers agreed to send a military mission to the troubled republic, EU member states will now decide whether they themselves will send troops as part of the mission, which is likely to commence in February and last six months.

The UK and Germany are among countries that are unlikely to participate in the mission - the first exclusively military mission embarked on by the European Union in more than five years. It is envisaged that up to 1,000 troops will be sent to support French troops that are already in place in the CAR.

The “bridging operation” is expected to last between four to six months, when it will be replaced by an African Union-led mission. Initially based around the airport area, it is likely to need a UN mandate to proceed.

The deteriorating situation in CAR has left more than 850,000 internally displaced persons in the violence-torn country.

Minister for State Joe Costello was also today due to attend a separate meeting in Brussels to discuss the humanitarian situation in CAR, hosted by EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

Since 2008, Ireland has provided €14 million in aid to the CAR.