Time to join EU humanitarian sea mission

 

Sir, – The Irish Maritime Forum is disappointed but not surprised by reports that there is concern about the safety and security of our naval personnel operating in the Mediterranean Sea (“Calls for Naval Service ‘clarity’ in migrant rescue”, May 15th).

We have has written to the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence and finally to the Taoiseach calling their attention to the anomaly that is Operation Pontus.

While we support the Naval Service deployment to the Mediterranean Sea as a demonstration of Ireland’s humanitarian and maritime credentials, we cannot understand why Ireland continues to operate in a bilateral arrangement with Italy (Operation Pontus) when an EU mission acting in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2240 (2015) commanded by an Italian admiral has commenced operations in the same area.

Operation Sophia enjoys widespread support from EU member nations. A total of 25 EU states contribute to Operation Sophia, including several neutrals and several non-maritime ones. The current contributing states are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia,Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Ireland is notable by her absence and this absence misses an important opportunity to garner diplomatic credit from the other 25 EU contributing member states, as opposed to Italy only.

Our absence is highlighted by having a ship operating in the same area but separate from our EU neighbours.

In the wake of the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the EU, Ireland needs to strengthen her ties with the remaining EU nations. Joining Operation Sophia would demonstrate Ireland’s commitment to European cooperation to the nations whose understanding and assistance we will need in the Brexit negotiations.

We believe that our ships and personnel would benefit from the increased security and support associated with operating within a multinational force.

Conversely, operating independently without that security and support exposes our ships and personnel to an avoidable risk in this volatile region.– Yours, etc,

Capt JAMES ROBINSON,

The Irish Maritime Forum,

Riverstick,

Co Cork.