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Joining EU Battle groups will lead to reduction in our commitment to real UN peacekeeping missions - Ó Snodaigh

22 March, 2006

Speaking during discussions on Irish participation in EU Battle groups with Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea in the Oireachtas Committee on EU Affairs today Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD criticised the inevitable reduction in the numbers of Irish soldiers being made available for traditional UN-led peacekeeping missions.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The government have made a maximum commitment to 850 soldiers for overseas missions. The decision to have 200-300 troops on stand-by for the Battle groups will result in only around 550 soldiers being available for the UN-led peacekeeping missions for which the Irish Defence Forces have traditionally received so much praise."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh criticised the Minister for attempting to "mislead" the public by referring to battle groups as 'peace brigades' arguing that there is little difference between peace enforcement, a task of the Battle groups, and war making.

The Dublin South Central TD also said that joining the EU Battle groups would inevitably lead to increases in Defence spending, which he said the Minister has thus far denied. "The interoperability requirements of battle groups, including interoperability with NATO would make this a reality. The Minister admitted that the Defence Forces receive a partial refund for the cost of their participation in UN missions whereas the state will incur all costs from activities with EU battle groups," Ó Snodaigh said.

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