The Journal kindly published my article on the possibility of sending Irish peacekeepers to Mali and the implications of Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty being invoked by Francois Hollande.
IN THE WAKE of last week’s siege by radical jihadists on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali’s capital, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney sought to downplay the risk to Irish soldiers already serving in a UN backed peacekeeping mission there, and doubled down on the government’s current position of sending a larger contingent to replace French forces.
The possible deployment of more Irish soldiers to either Lebanon or Mali comes at a time when France is reeling from the deadliest terrorist attack on European soil in more than a decade and has called upon its EU allies for aid and assistance.
Increasing the size of Ireland’s contingent is meant to ease the burden of the French military, which is currently stretched thin, dealing with numerous overseas commitments, while simultaneously confronting a growing domestic security crisis.
Responding to critics who have questioned whether sending a larger contingent of Defence Forces personnel to France’s former colonies is the appropriate response, Coveney claimed that “some people are trying to create a story that is unfair”.
But what the minister fails to address is exactly why it is Ireland’s responsibility to fill those holes with Irish soldiers – much less, articulate clearly how Ireland’s national security interests will be served in doing so.
While acts of support in solidarity with the French are absolutely necessary at this time, any assistance should not undermine Ireland’s own national security interests by haphazardly putting Irish lives at risk – especially when that assistance is directed abroad on a mission that may only tangentially be related to European security, if at all.
Furthermore, Coveney has some explaining to do in his framing of the issue explicitly around helping the French in their time of need – the decision to send 180 more soldiers to Lebanon next year was already decided upon long before the attacks in Paris and Hollande’s invocation of Article 42.
Increasing the total number of soldiers available for international deployments from around 400 to 850 has also been on the minister’s agenda for some time now.