Simon Coveney to decide on Defence Forces role in tackling piracy in Indian Ocean

Permutations of resources and personnel being considered to combat ocean piracy

The Government is expected to decide within the next month whether to send Defence Forces personnel to the Indian Ocean to assist in tackling piracy.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said the department and military authorities were seriously considering potential options for personnel to protect ships delivering food aid to Somalia and other vessels from piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast.

He told Sinn Féin’s Seán Crowe that, while consideration was at a very early stage, “I will probably be able to say whether this is a real likelihood” by the time of the next Dáil defence questions, due on February 19th”.

Three possibilities are under consideration – sending a well-trained unit of 20 to serve on World Food Programme vessels, sending Air Corps personnel and an aircraft to improve surveillance capacity or deploying "a fully crewed ship for a period of three or four months to participate in the work the fleet is doing there".


Ballpark figure

Mr Crowe had asked if the Government was requested to send personnel and if the Minister had a “ballpark figure for the cost”. He also wanted to know if the plan was “specifically a military response to a difficult situation there”. Mr Coveney said he would have a full cost estimate within the next fortnight.

He said the EU’s Operation Atalanta, which the Defence Forces would join if they went, “is specifically about counteracting and preventing piracy and providing a significant deterrent” for a serious threat to vessels carrying food aid.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times