Minister Kehoe visits Irish Defence Forces personnel serving in Mali

The Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D., visited Mali in Western Africa on Wednesday, 26 October to meet with Irish Defence Forces personnel serving with the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali).

During his visit Minister Kehoe met with UN Special Representative for Mali, Mr. Mahamat Saleh Annadif, where he was briefed on the operation and impact of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  Discussions also centred around the importance of EUTM Mali and its contribution to the security, stability and peace of that region. Minister Kehoe confirmed the commitment of the Irish Government to continued training and mentoring the Malian Armed Forces as part of the EU Training mission.

Later in the morning, Minister Kehoe travelled to the Headquarters of the EU training mission where he met with the recently appointed Mission Commander, Brigadier General Eric Harvent from Belgium. Brigadier General Harvent expressed his gratitude for Ireland’s contribution to EUTM Mali and praised the work of Irish personnel serving in the mission. Minister Kehoe was also briefed on the overall security situation in Mali and the operation of the EU training mission.

Speaking afterwards the Minister said “EUTM is recognised as an essential partner in the reconstruction of the Malian State and the main instrument for the reconstruction of its armed forces.

This visit has provided me with an important and comprehensive insight into the security and political issues in the region. There are many challenges facing Mali in seeking to provide security for its people and to secure its borders.  It is clear that there will be a need for continuing EU engagement and support in the region for the foreseeable future.

Our continued participation in this mission supports Ireland’s ongoing commitment to international peace and security through the deployment of Defence Forces contingents on peace support and crisis management operations”.

Also, at the Mission headquarters, in acknowledging the significant contribution Irish personnel to the EUTM mission, Minister Kehoe presented 15 Irish personnel, with their Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Service Medal, which is an international military decoration awarded to individuals, both military and civilian, who have served with CSDP missions.

In presenting the medals the Minister extended his gratitude and that of the Government to the Irish personnel based in Mali for the “tasks which they are undertaking with the EUTM Mission to provide training and mentoring for the Malian Armed Forces to improve their military capacity.  People at home can take great pride in all that the Defence Forces have done, and continue to so on overseas service, often in very challenging environments.

Performing your duties overseas can require considerable sacrifices. I know the dangers you face and the hardships you have to endure as part of your mission here. The Government is very mindful of the great sacrifices that each of you are making and thank you for doing so.”

In the afternoon, the Minister travelled to Kati Training Camp north of Bamako where he observed a planned training activity involving Irish personnel. The Minister congratulated the Irish personnel on the work they are doing in the mission. He also wished all personnel of EUTM Mali a safe and successful mission during their tour of duty in Mali.

The Minister will return to Ireland today, 27th October.