Priority Questions -

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 681 No. 4

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 59. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  asked the Minister for Defence Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea  if the Defence Force personnel serving in Chad beyond 15 March 2009 and returning to Ireland in May 2009 will be eligible for the award of a UN MINURCAT mission medal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18112/09]

Deputy Willie O’Dea:Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Medals are awarded to members of the Defence Forces on the basis of various criteria, including length of service, service overseas and for acts of bravery associated with such service at home and overseas. Members who serve overseas on UN missions or UN mandated missions, subject to certain criteria, are eligible for the award of the United Nations peacekeepers medal. This medal is awarded only once to an individual, irrespective of the number of overseas missions completed during his or her career.

In addition to the peacekeepers medal, a member who serves overseas may also be eligible for the award of a mission-specific medal by the international organisation responsible for the mission. Accordingly, in this instance, qualifying personnel currently deployed to Chad as part of the EUFOR Chad/Central African Republic, CAR, mission were awarded European Security Defence Policy, ESDP, EUFOR service medals prior to being, to use the term, “rehatted” to the United Nations MINURCAT mission on 15 March 2009.

The qualifying criterion for the award of a UN MINURCAT medal is at least 90 days service in the theatre. Consequently, personnel returning in May will not be eligible for the award of this medal. However, it must always be borne in mind that the medals are awarded not by the Irish Defence Forces but by the international organisation in question. Furthermore, owing to the importance placed on the award of medals and in order to preserve the sense of value and entitlement attached to same, it is policy that only one service medal per tour of duty is recognised.

Personnel deployed to Chad beyond 15 March 2009 or, those personnel who were ineligible for an ESDP EUFOR service medal, will be eligible for the award of a UN MINURCAT mission medal provided they meet the qualifying criteria as set down by the UN, namely, at least 90 days service.

[730]Deputy Jimmy Deenihan:Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan In view of the fact that the mission spent only one month as a EUFOR mission and will spend three months as a UN mission, surely it would be more appropriate to provide the personnel with a UN peacekeeping medal, which, as I understand it, is what the majority of the mission wants.

I ask that the Minister make personal representations to the Force commander with whom remit for the provision of these medals rests. Will the Minister make representations, through the UN or Irish representatives, to the Force commander that consideration be given to the award of these medals? Also, there is precedent in regard to the granting of the peacekeeping medal. Members of the Naval Service served 60 days in Lebanon and were granted the UN peacekeeping medal at that time. There is precedent. This is quite a serious issue. I will certainly campaign on behalf of these people because they feel very strongly about it. They are representing us in very hostile conditions. Surely they deserve this honour. At the end of the day what these people, who were on foreign missions and who risked their lives for us and for world order, have is just that badge of honour — that medal — to show they served there. The UN peacekeeping medal is very highly regarded by any military person in the world, never mind Ireland.

Deputy Willie O’Dea:Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea I understand that people who served 30 days and moved from the EUFOR mission straight into the MINURCAT mission will be entitled to an ESDP medal. The question is whether they will have served sufficient time to also get a MINURCAT medal. As the Deputy knows, only one medal is recognised per tour of duty. The Deputy says that those involved would regard it as more appropriate to get the MINURCAT medal because it represents longer service and he is concerned that some might fall just short of the 90 days. In that case, the United Nations, as the organisation responsible for the mission, can break its own rules, as it were, and make exceptions for those who fall just short of the 90 days. If the Deputy thinks it is appropriate and he wishes me to make representations through our people to the force commander who is representing the United Nations on the ground, I would be happy to do so.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan:Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan I welcome the Minister’s response and I recognise that he is taking the matter very seriously. If he could make direct representations to the force commander in whose remit, I understand, is the granting of these medals, I believe those medals will be awarded. However, it needs that representation from the Government through the Minister to achieve this objective.

Deputy Willie O’Dea:Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea We will be talking to the representative associations about the matter. Some people may be entitled to the ESDP medal but fall just short of the service required for the MINURCAT medal. Some people might not even be entitled to the ESDP medal and also fall short of the service required for the MINURCAT medal, although I do not think that situation arises. If such people believe the MINURCAT medal would be more appropriate, I am prepared to make representations for them.


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