Another Irish naval vessel should go to Mediterranean, says Coveney

Minister rejects call to withdraw Irish troops from UN Golan Heights mission

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

One of the first decisions of a new government after the general election will be whether to send another Irish naval vessel to the Mediterranean to help with the rescue of migrants.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney told Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesman Seán Crowe that if he was minister for defence in the next administration, “I intend to put it to the government that we should send a vessel to the Mediterranean for another rotation”.

He said the three ships that went in 2014 “did a phenomenal job and rescued more than 8,600 people, many of whom would not be alive today were it not for the Naval Service”.

He added there was a “strong demand” for it to return, after a break in December.

Mr Crowe said Ireland “needs to show solidarity by supporting the rescue missions and relocating refugees fleeing the war zone”. He said 113 people had died in the Mediterranean in January. Last Friday alone 45 people died when a boat sank near Greek islands.

Later Mr Coveney rejected a call from Independent TD Clare Daly for Ireland’s almost 140 Defence Force personnel to withdraw from the United Nations mission on the Golan Heights. She said UN soldiers were being “used as human shields to protect the Israeli illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights”.

 But the Minister said Irish troops were a stabilising influence and it would be highly irresponsible to reduce or remove that force “for some political reason or to make a statement”.

Ms Daly described the mission, established more than 40 years ago following an agreement between Israel and Syria, as a failure. She said the Israelis had authorised corporations, “including some sponsored by Dick Cheney, to drill for oil”.