Safety of Irish troops has been a key issue, says Gilmore

Some 115 personnel to be sent to Golan Heights area next month

“We have been assured by the United Nations that every arrangement that is possible will be put in place to ensure their safety and security,” said  Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore yesterday. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

“We have been assured by the United Nations that every arrangement that is possible will be put in place to ensure their safety and security,” said Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore yesterday. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 01:00


The safety and security of Irish troops in the Middle East region has been paramount in the Government’s discussions with the United Nations on the Syrian crisis, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has said.

Speaking to reporters in Belfast yesterday, Mr Gilmore said the matter had been a central point when he spoke to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon about the situation in Syria.

“We have been assured by the United Nations that every arrangement that is possible will be put in place to ensure their safety and security. But it is obviously something that we will continue to discuss with the UN,” he said.

Some 115 Irish troops are to be sent to the Golan Heights area, between Israel and Syria, next month to join three others serving the area. A further 360 Irish troops are stationed in Lebanon as part of a UN force and there are concerns military personnel could be at risk from reprisal attacks should the US and other allies launch air strikes on Syria.

Fianna Fáil yesterday urged Minister for Defence Alan Shatter to explain what additional risk assessment has been carried out and what assurances he has sought from the UN since the crisis deepened.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the party’s defence spokesman, said the Dáil had supported deployment of those members of the Defence Forces to the Golan Heights area but that the context had significantly changed in the last few days.

Mr Gilmore said “the appropriate place” for an international response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime was “through the United Nations and particularly through the United Nations security council”.

The Irish troops due to be sent to the Golan Heights have been training in Wicklow this week. Ireland was asked to provide military personnel after Japan, Croatia and Austria withdrew soldiers amid concerns the Syrian civil war would spill into the Golan territories. – (Additional reporting PA)