Ke­hoe apol­o­gises for de­lay in bring­ing troops home

Wexford People - - NEWS - By Tim Ryan, Oireach­tas cor­re­spon­dent

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.

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