Published on 

Return of L.É William Butler Yeats from Humanitarian operations in the Mediterranean and deployment of L.É. Niamh on Operation Sophia

Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe T.D., was in the Naval Base, Haulbowline today to welcome home the crew of L.É William Butler Yeats who have been deployed on a humanitarian search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean since July 2017.  This was the second time the L.É William Butler Yeats was deployed on this humanitarian mission.  Irish participation in the humanitarian mission since 2015 has resulted in the rescue of over 17,500 people.  

Minister Kehoe said “I am delighted to welcome home L.É William Butler Yeats and their crew from their service in the Mediterranean under the leadership of Lieutenant Commander Eric Timon and I wish to thank them for their contribution to a mission which was at times, very challenging.”

Minister Kehoe also met with Lieutenant Commander Stewart Armstrong and the crew of L.É. Niamh before their departure for the Mediterranean to take part in Operation Sophia.  Operation Sophia is designed to disrupt the people smuggling operations in the Mediterranean and to enforce the arms embargo on Libya and is one element of a comprehensive approach, being undertaken by the European Union, to address the migration crisis in the South Central Mediterranean.

Ireland’s commitment in the Mediterranean to date has been to undertake humanitarian search and rescue missions on a bilateral basis with the Italian authorities.   While Operation Sophia focusses on security and interception operations, L.É. Niamh will also be available to respond to requests from the relevant authorities to assist with humanitarian search and rescue.

The Minister wished the crew of L.É. Niamh “a safe and successful mission” and noted that “we will now form part of a broad multilateral operation in which 25 other Member States are participating.  Ireland will be making a contribution to addressing some of the root causes of migration and human trafficking.  Ireland’s humanitarian efforts to date will be strengthened by working as part of this multilateral approach.”

Note for Editors

In July 2017, Minister Kehoe secured Government and Dáil approval for the deployment of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to serve as part of the UN mandated, EU Naval Operation in the Mediterranean, EUNAVFOR MED - Operation Sophia.

Operation Sophia’s mission is to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers.   The objectives of the operation are not only to disrupt the activities of smugglers and traffickers; but also to prevent further loss of life at sea and to reduce the suffering and exploitation of migrants by countering and challenging the criminal organisations engaged in such activities.