Army Rangers set for UN mission in Mali after 77-39 Dáil vote

Fourteen personnel to serve on four-month rotations in war-torn African country


Fourteen members of the Army Ranger Wing will serve on the most dangerous UN mission in the world after the Dáil voted by 77 to 39 to approve their deployment to war-torn Mali in the African Sahel region.

Fine Gael and its supporting Independents and Fianna Fáil backed the proposal. Sinn Féin Labour, Solidarity People Before Profit, the Green Party, Social Democrats and and other Independents opposed the move.

Most of the Opposition rejected the deployment on the grounds that it had a security-only focus rather than finding a road map to peace and some argued it breaches Ireland’s neutrality as a peace enforcement mission.

Under a triple-lock system such a deployment must have UN authorisation, Government approval and the backing of the Dáil.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established in 2013 and since then 195 UN personnel have been killed.

Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe said the members of the Army Ranger Wing “have the necessary skillsets and are trained and equipped to operate in hostile environments such as Mali”.

Mr Kehoe said the Government had consistently reviewed the mission since its establishment in 2013 and believed that now was the right time for deployment.

The Minister said it was the kind of mission the Army Rangers trained for every day.

Twenty Defence Forces personnel are currently serving in Mali as part of an EU mission training in bomb disposal and the clearance of landmines.

Mali is one of a number of countries from the Sahel region which also includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger, which the EU is seeking to stabilise.

The 14 Army Rangers will be deployed on a four-month rotation, joining 18,000 international military from 50 other countries serving there. It will be the rangers first international deployment since they served in Chad in 2008.

The UN believes the ongoing and increasing instability in the Sahel region of Sub-Saharan Africa represents a very significant threat to African stability.

The mission was set up in Mali amid domestic turmoil and fears Islamist extremist terror groups viewed the country as an attractive base and recruiting ground.