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Minister Kehoe secures Dáil approval for deployment of Defence Forces to EU naval mission – Operation Sophia

The Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D today secured Dáil approval for the deployment of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to serve as part of the EU naval operation in the Mediterranean, EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia.
This follows Government approval at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (11th July 2017) for Minister Kehoe’s proposal to arrange for the transfer of the existing Naval Service deployment in the Mediterranean under ‘Operation Pontus’ to the EU Common Security and Defence Policy mission, ‘Operation Sophia’.

It completes the Triple Lock mechanism of UN, Government and Dáil approval which is required before deploying members of the Defence Forces overseas as part of an international Force.

Transferring to Operation Sophia will result in the redeployment of Irish Naval Service vessels from primarily humanitarian search and rescue operation to primarily security and interception operations.

The Government decision is for the Naval Service to transfer to Operation Sophia at an appropriate juncture and the preparatory work may take up to two months.

Speaking following the Government decision, the Minister said “In addition to Ireland’s contribution to the humanitarian effort in the Mediterranean to date, Ireland will now be making a contribution to addressing some of the root causes of migration and human trafficking.”

In acknowledging the success of search and rescue operations carried out by the Naval Service in the Mediterranean over the last three years and rescuing over 16,800 migrants, the Minister stated that “The Government is extremely proud of the manner in which the Naval Service has performed its role in the Mediterranean.”

Notes to the Editors
The EU naval operation against human smugglers and traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean EUNAVFOR MED was launched as a Common Security and Defence mission in June 2015. In October 2015 the Mission was given the name Operation Sophia, named after a baby born to a Somali refugee on board one of the vessels - in the words of the EU High Representative to “honour the lives of the people we are saving, the lives of people we want to protect, and to pass the message to the world that fighting the smugglers and the criminal networks is a way of protecting human life”.