The Irish Government is prepared to send additional Irish troops to Mali or Lebanon to relieve French soldiers who will be sent to fight Daesh (Islamic State).
Taioseach (Ireland’s prime minister) Enda Kenny indicated that the French Ambassador to Ireland Jean-Pierre Thébault had told the Irish Government that France’s military is already being stretched by their commitments. Kenny added that no formal request had been made. He was speaking at an Action Plan for Jobs press conference on Thursday.
Following the attacks on Paris on Friday, Nov 13, France and then Russia executed airstrikes on Raqqa, the terrorists' de facto capital in Syria. Following the seven attacks in Paris which killed 125 people France’s President Francois Hollande has said his country is at war with Daesh. Since the attacks the special forces in Paris obliterated another cell preparing for future attacks in the St. Denis neighborhood of Paris.
The French government invoked a “mutual defense clause” within the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty earlier this week.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said all 27 of France's EU partners responded positively at an EU defense ministers' meeting. He said partners could help "either by taking part in France's operations in Syria or Iraq, or by easing the load or providing support for France in other operations."
At the press conference on Thursday Kenny said, “We have said that, within our conditions and our circumstances, we will assist in whatever way we can here, though probably the numbers will be small.”
He continued, “When I signed the book of condolences at the French embassy the other day, the French ambassador did mention this to me that France is now very stretched.
“At the meeting of (EU) ministers for defense during the week, the French defense minister invoked the relevant article from the European treaties looking for help.
“We have been working with the French in Mali, 10 members of the Defense Forces out there doing particular duties.
“Now, a formal request has not come in from France yet. It may come through the Minister for Defense, it may be dealing with extra personnel that the French may withdraw from south Lebanon or Mali or whatever.
“The point the French make is that the French president has declared that France is at war in respect of these incidents in Syria. The French defense forces are stretched in quite a number of countries and they may make a request for assistance in that regard.
"Obviously, there is a process by which Ireland being a neutral country would offer assistance in particular forms and we would consider that when it comes.”
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Kenny said he, Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Joan Burton and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald had been briefed on the matter by Ireland’s national security committee, including Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and the Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, on Thursday morning.
He added, “The Tánaiste and I and the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defense had a briefing this morning from the national security committee, including the Garda Commissioner and the chief of staff of the Defense Forces.
“The situation insofar as Ireland is concerned has not changed since the Paris attacks. An incident is possible but not likely.”
On Wednesday Ireland’s Defense Minister Simon Coveney also said that Ireland was prepared to provide assistance but that this would not breach its stance on neutrality or put the lives of its soldiers in danger.
Coveney said, even before the attacks in Paris, Ireland had been considering sending more troops to Mali. The west African country was plunged into conflict after its president was ousted in a military coup in 2012. Mali is now divided into factions, one of which has been hijacked by Islamist extremists.
Overall Ireland has a commitment of 850 troops to United Nations missions, but currently there are fewer than 500 overseas. This gap will allows the Irish Government to provide considerable aid to the French.
Coveney told the Irish Independent he felt an immediate response to the French call was “the least we could do.”
Article 42.7 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty states that if a member country "is the victim of armed aggression on its territory" other members have "an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power." The clause is similar to Nato's Article 5 that designates an attack on one ally as an attack on them all.
As the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said, "France has been attacked, so the whole of Europe has been attacked".
Ireland’s Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil (Parliament) that the gardaí (police) must be ready for what is "an evolving" threat. Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan announced that they are carrying out a review to see if any additional resources are needed to fight international terrorism.