Kehoe apologises for delay in bringing troops home
THE Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe apologies to the families of the 119 Department of Defence personnel who were delayed in returning from their deployment with the UN in Syria.
Following receipt of the required diplomatic clearance for the flight to rotate the Defence Forces contingent on Tuesday, October 2, an issue arose unexpectedly on Monday morning with the clearance, he said.
The rotation of contingents is co-ordinated across UN missions so as to maintain appropriate forces on the ground in support of missions, he said. In addition, rotation flights through Beirut are confined to certain days and times.
‘As such, there are limited windows during which we can rotate the Defence Forces contingent. Given these constraints, the necessary timelines to secure diplomatic clearance and the primacy of ensuring safe and secure transit through Syria and Lebanon for the rotating contingents, it is now planned to rotate the contingents on Monday, October 15.’
The allowances due to personnel while serving overseas will continue to be paid and their 30-day post-deployment leave entitlements will only commence from their date of return, he said.
‘Additionally, I have taken the decision that the personnel who have been delayed in returning home will receive an ex gratia payment of €1,000 in recognition of the disruption cause to them and, more specifically, their families.’
The Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin told the Taoiseach the Department of Defence was blaming the Army. ‘The Army is blaming the Department of Defence,’ he said. ‘How could it be, when the beginning and end of this deployment was known, that the proper paperwork could not be done to ensure these people who have served the State so well could not be brought home to their families in time?’
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it happened because military flights require specific diplomatic clearance from all countries through whose airspace they fly. ‘These clearances require prior notification are time limited and must all be aligned to allow the flight to proceed,’ he said.
Minister Paul Kehoe.