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Current Missions

Currently the Defence Forces is involved in a number of missions throughout the world involving approximately one hundred Personnel from all branches. 

The following are the areas of Deployment:

Deployments in Africa

United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara

MINURSO - 20 September 1991 — to date 

The deployment of MINURSO stems from a dispute over the former Spanish Sahara, situated on the north-west African coast, between Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Atlantic Ocean.

When the Spanish left in the mid-1970s, Polisario, a popular nationalist movement, proclaimed an independent state, the Saharwi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Polisario was backed by Algeria but Mauritania and Morocco both claimed the territory on the basis of historic rights. Moroccan troops moved in and occupied the north of the territory.

The Mauritanians invaded from the south but suffered major defeats at the hands of lightning-fast Polisario columns. In 1977, the Mauritanian government was ousted in a coup, and the new administration renounced claims to any part of the disputed territory. Morocco immediately annexed the former Mauritanian zone.

By 1985, Morocco, with 100,000 troops in the region, had constructed a 1,400km long, five-metre high wall from sand, rock and rubble to protect the territory's inhabited area. Polisario columns were unable to breach the wall, and the level of Moroccan casualties fell dramatically. 

By the beginning of the 1990s a ceasefire was in place. The territory's name had changed to Western Sahara, and in September 1991 MINURSO was deployed on both sides of the wall to monitor the ceasefire. MINURSO carries out its mandate through regular patrols and air reconnaissance.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the MedalMINURSO-Ribbon
Duration20 September 1991 — to date 
Operation typeUN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer) 
Commitment3 Personnel

United Nations Observer Mission in Congo

MONUSCO - June 2001 to date

The Democratic Republic of Congo and five regional states signed the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in July 1999. In response the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1279, which included the establishment of MONUC, to assist in the peace process.

Its mandate included monitoring the ceasefire agreement; liaising with the opposing military forces; obtaining the release of prisoners of war; and the supervision and verification of the disengagement of the warring parties.

The mission originally had 500 military observers but in early 2000 the UN Security Council authorised an expansion to 5,537 military personnel, including the 500 observers.

In two further expansions as the peace process evolved MONUC grew in strength to 16,700 troops. The mission's mandate also expanded to include protection of civilians 'under immediate threat of violence' and the collection and disposal of illegal arms.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the MedalMONUSCO-Ribbon
DurationJune 2001 to date
Operation typeUN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer) 
Commitment3

European Union Training Mission (Mali)

EUTM (Mali) - February 2013 to date

On 18 February 2013, the European Council agreed to set up a military mission to contribute to training of the Mali security forces.

The mission objectives in Mali are to help the Malian authorities to:

  • Restore constitutional and democratic order in Mali through the faithful implementation of the Road Map for the Transition adopted on 29 January by the National Assembly; this Road Map includes free and transparent elections in 2013 and a national inclusive dialogue
  • Restore State authority, law and order throughout the country
  • Neutralize organised crime and terrorist threats. 

The military training mission, EUTM Mali, will specifically train and advise the Malian Armed Forces - MAF - under the control of legitimate civilian authorities.

This is done through the provision of:

  • Training for the benefit of the Malian Armed Forces unit capabilities;
  • Training and advice in command and control, logistical chain and human resources
  • As well as on international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians and human rights.

The mission will not be involved in combat operations. The Defence Forces have deployed 20 personnel to EUTM Mali. One Staff Officer is posted to the Mission HQ in Bamako, the remainder are part of the Mission Training Team who are deployed to the Koulikoro Training Camp approximately 100km East of the capital Bamako.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the MedalEUTM-Mali-Ribbon
DurationFebruary 2013 to date
Operation typeEuropean Union led Training Mission
Commitment20 Personnel

Deployments in Europe

Stabilisation Force - European Union Force

SFOR - May 1997 — Dec 2004
EU - BiH - Dec 2004 - to Date

Under UNSCR 1031 NATO was given the mandate to implement the military aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreements following the end of the war in Bosnia Herzegovina in 1995. As a result IFOR (Implementation Force) was deployed and completed its mission by December 1996 and was subsequently replaced by SFOR.

The new force's mandate, authorised by UNSCR 1088, consisted of deterring the resumption of hostilities, promoting a climate conducive to the peace process, and providing support to civilian organisations. Commencing with 32,000 troops SFOR underwent reorganisation in 1999/2000 and was reduced to 20,000.

Irish contribution began in May 1997 and consisted of a Military Police (MP) Company Headquarters, a Military Police Platoon, and a National Support Element. The contingent was based in SFOR HQ in Sarajevo and policed the 8,000 SFOR troops based in the area. The Irish MP Coy was withdrawn in January 2003.

The Defence Forces retained 12 positions in SFOR HQ until December 2004 when SFOR was replaced by the EU-led mission, Operation 'Althea', also known as EUFOR, which was authorised by UNSCR 1575.

EUFORs mission is:

  • To provide capacity building and training to the Armed Forces of BiH
  • To support BiH efforts to maintain a safe and secure environment
  • To provide support to the overall EU comprehensive strategy for BiH

EUFOR also provides support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and provides the security environment in which the police can act against organised criminal networks. Defence Forces contribution to the new mission has increased and we now have 7 personnel serving with EUFOR.

There are 7,000 troops serving with EUFOR, provided by 17 EU member states and 5 non-EU states.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the MedalEU-BIH-Ribbon
DurationMay 1997 — to date
Operation typeEU led Crisis Management Operation
Commitment5

Kosovo Force

KFOR - August 1999 to date

During the fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia most of the attention internationally was focused on the conflict between Croatia and Serbia, and between Serbs, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia Herzegovina.

However, throughout this period another conflict was taking place in the then little known Serbian province of Kosovo. Kosovo shares a border with Albania and has a large majority population of ethnic Albanians. After the Balkans War in 1913 Kosovo became a part of Serbia and after the First World War became a part of Yugoslavia, despite its large Albanian majority. However, the importance of Kosovo to the Serbs should not be underestimated. This importance stems from the final defeat of the Serbs by the Ottoman Empire at Kosovo Polje in 1389. Since that time the region has had huge significance in the psyche of Serb nationalists. In the Balkans, where grudges can last for generations, time has its own measure and many Serbs talk about the battle at Kosovo Polje as if it took place a few years ago.

In 1974 Kosovo became an autonomous province within Tito’s Yugoslavia and this lasted until after his death. In 1990 Kosovo’s autonomy was revoked and its provincial assembly dissolved by the Serb government. As resistance to Serb rule increased, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerged and began attacking Serbian security forces, who responded heavy-handedly against the population as a whole.

By 1997, with the situation in the remainder of the Balkans stabilising, the international community began to focus on Kosovo. In 1998 a Contact Group, comprising France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Russia and the US began diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. Meanwhile NATO planners drew up military plans to support the diplomatic process. In September UNSC Resolution 1199 highlighted an impending human catastrophe in Kosovo and demanded a ceasefire. By March 1999 the violence was continuing and after a UNHCR report stated that 250,000 people were displaced in Kosovo due to the conflict NATO began an aerial bombardment of Serbian targets in Kosovo and Serbia. In June 1999 Serbia agreed to the G8 Peace Principles and began to withdraw its forces. NATO ended its air strikes and KFOR, which was authorised by UNSC Resolution 1244, entered Kosovo.

KFOR’s mission is to establish and maintain a secure environment; monitor, verify and enforce compliance with the various agreements; and to provide support to the UNMIK mission. The NATO-led KFOR mission began with 50,000 troops from 36 NATO and non-NATO nations, including Ireland.

On 29 February 2008 Ireland recognised the Republic of Kosovo following the 17 February Kosovo Assembly Resolution which declared Kosovo independent.

In 1999, the Defence Forces initial contribution to KFOR consisted of a transport/logistics company, with a fleet of articulated vehicles, DROPS vehicles, 4x4s and ancillary vehicles. The Irish unit, based in Camp Clarke, Lipljan, 15km south of Pristina, was situated in Multinational Brigade (MNB) Centre. The unit was under control of HQ KFOR and their mission was to provide, on order, equipment and material lift to military units in KFOR and to humanitarian organisations working with the UN.

In October 2004 Defence Forces’ involvement with KFOR changed when 8 Irish Transport Company was replaced by an Armoured Personnel Carrier-mounted infantry company, designated 27 Infantry Group. The company operates now as part of Multinational Task Force (Centre).

A Contingent HQ element and logistics support group remain in Camp Clarke, a number of officers and NCOs took up appointments in Camp Ville, and the infantry company was split between Camp Clarke and Camp Karhu (a former Finnish position in the Serb village of Donja Gusterica). The remaining Irish personnel serving in-theatre are split between KFOR HQ, Task Force (Centre) HQ, and the multinational MP Company. The National Support Element of one officer and three NCOs was established in Skopje, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The Irish company’s area of responsibility (AOR) covers 190 sq km and it carries out its mission through vigorous and regular patrols in their Mowag APCs. The eastern part of the AOR is mountainous and dotted with Albanian villages while the western part consists of smaller hills and contains a Serb enclave. There are two villages in the AOR with mixed populations, Janjevo and Robovce.

In 2010 Camp Clarke closed and all the remaining appointments in Camp VIlel were discontinued ona phased basis.  The Defence Forces still hold 12 appointments in KFOR Hq - Flim City.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the MedalKFOR-Ribbon
DurationAugust 1999 to date
Operation type NATO - PfP led Peace Support Operation
Commitment20

Deployments in the Middle East

United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation

Irish Officer in UNTSO

UNTSO - 18 December 1958 to date

UNTSO, established in 1948, is the oldest ongoing United Nations peacekeeping operation. It operates in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel - the parties to the Truce Agreements that followed the fighting in Palestine in 1948.

The mission's mandate, “to observe and maintain any truce or ceasefire demanded by the Security Council and to assist the parties in supervising any agreements concluded by them,” is open-ended and does not require periodic renewal.

UNTSO is also tasked with assisting in the setting up of new UN peacekeeping missions and has been involved in the establishment of many of these, including ONUC, UNIFIL and UNPROFOR. UNTSO HQ is based in Jerusalem and has observers in Lebanon (OGL), Tiberias (OGG-T), and Damascus (OGG-D) as well as liaison officers in Cairo, Beirut, Amman and Gaza. UNTSO also supports the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights by manning observation posts in the area.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the MedalUNTSO-OGL-Ribbon
Duration18 December 1958 to date
Operation typeUN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer)
Commitment12

United Nations Interim Force Lebanon

Irish Troops in UNIFIL

UNIFIL - May 1978 to Date

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1978, UNIFIL was established to supervise the withdrawal of Israeli Forces and restore peace and security to the area. Since then the Defence Forces had an Infantry Battalion (approx. Strength 540 personnel) in Lebanon, which rotated every six months plus almost 100 others in UNIFIL headquarters and the Force Mobile Reserve until November 2001.

The battalion’s headquarters was located in Tibnin and it was responsible for an area of approx 100 square kilometres. It performed its duties mainly by providing a presence in the area, by operating patrols, checkpoints and manning observation posts. The battalion also rendered humanitarian assistance to the local population including aiding the local orphanage in Tibnin.

The presence of the Irish battalion in South Lebanon undoubtedly helped to restore normality to the area, as evidenced by the increase in population and economic activity in the region. This is a part of Ireland’s commitment to global peace and security.

After the withdrawal of Israeli troops from South Lebanon and the completion of its mandate with UNIFIL, the Irish Defence Forces withdrew from the Area of Operations leaving behind 11 Defence Forces personnel in Lebanon to overseas the handover of the mission to Ghana Battalion.

A total of 47 Irish Defence Forces personnel lost their lives in the service of peace during the first 23 years of this mission, in which over 32,000 individual tours of duty have been completed.

Following a return to intense conflict on the Israel/Lebanon border in June/July 2006, in response to a request from the UN in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006, the Defence Forces returned to Lebanon on 31 October 2006 for 12 months. The unit consisted of a Mobile Mechanised Infantry Company Group and operated in reconnaissance, patrolling and security roles alongside a Finnish Engineering Company as part of a joint Irish-Finnish Battalion.

The Infantry Company Group withdrew in 2007, however the Irish Defence Forces remained committed to UNIFIL, with nine personnel serving in the UNIFIL HQ in Naquora. In June 2011 until Nov 2013, the Irish Defence Forces deployed a Mechanised Infantry Battalion of approx 440 personnel to UNIFIL, as in the past this unit was involved in peacekeeping operations. The Infantry Battalion, deployed in UNIFIL‘s Sector West continued to be involved in this area Peace Keeping Mission. Their duties included manning two Posts along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel. The units also carried out patrolling, ground holding and humanitarian operations. As a mechanised Infantry Battalion the unit was equipped with MOWAG Piranha III APCs, Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles (GR32), heavy machine guns, anti-tank guns and Javelin missiles, heavy and medium mortars, reconnaissance surveillance equipment.

As of Nov 2013, the unit is now operating as an Infantry Group under the command of a FINIRISH Battalion. The UNIFIL mission Monitor, Support and Assist involves extensive mobile patrolling throughout the Irish area of operations, including ground-holding, monitoring the Blue Line and humanitarian operations. Operations are conducted on a “High visibility, low profile” basis with access to armour if needed; soft skin vehicles are predominantly used for interaction with the local population.

The Irish Defence Forces currently have 336 personnel serving in the mission area. Together with a contingent from Finland and a platoon plus of Estonian soldiers (38), they form IrishFinnBatt based at UNP 2-45 in UNIFIL Sector West. In addition there are personnel serving in UNIFIL HQ near Naqoura and  personnel serving in Sector West HQ, Shama.

Lebanon Stories - Video 

Operation Details
Ribbon for the MedalUNIFIL-Ribbon
Duration:May 1978 - today
Operation type:  UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Troops)
Commitment:460

United Nations Disengagement Observer Force

Irish Troops on Patrol UNDOF

UNDOF- June 1997 — August 1998
UNDOF - September 2013 - to date
UNDOF was established by UNSCR350 in 1974 following the agreed disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights after the ending of the Yom Kippur War. The Force deployed in and around an area of separation, which is 80km long and varying from 10km to 1km in width. UNDOF is the only military presence allowed in the area of separation, and it has 44 manned positions and 11 observation posts.

The Defence Forces’ first contribution to this mission consisted of providing one force commander, Brigadier General Dave Stapleton (RIP) (subsequently Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces).  In September 2013 the Defence Forces have been asked to participate and supply a larger group of troops to the Mission.

They will be  primarily tasked as the Force Mobile Reserve to undertake reinforcement, reaction, escort and other operations throughout UNDOF’s Area of Responsibility.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the MedalUNDOF-Ribbon
Duration:June 1997 — August 1998 & September 2013 - to date
Operation type:UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Troops) 
Commitment:130 

New York

United Nations Headquarters New York

UNNY 27 - November 1978 — to date

Since 1978, a number of Defence Forces officers have served in different positions at United Nations Headquarters New York (UNNY). At present the Defence Forces provide two officers to the UN's Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO).