Personnel on duty from the 43rd Infantry Group UNDOF in Syria. Forces

Defence Forces to participate in UN peacekeeping mission in Syria until next spring

The Tánaiste will today seek Cabinet approval for continued participation in the mission until March or April next year.

THE DEFENCE FORCES will withdraw from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights in Syria next spring, it is understood.  

Tánaiste Micheál Martin will today seek Cabinet approval for continued Defence Forces participation in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) until March or April next year.

The Irish Infantry Group will then withdraw from the UNDOF mission.

The decision to withdraw was previously agreed by Government in March.

At the time, the Department of Defence said the decision followed the conclusion of an assessment of the sustainability of the Defence Forces’ overseas commitments.

The department said it would make sure that the Defence Forces have the capacity to fulfil their commitment to the EU Battlegroup 2024/2025 as well as allowing the Defence Forces to undertake a process of consolidation with regard to their overseas commitments and to prepare for future peace-keeping missions.

“The withdrawal of troops from UNDOF will also relieve ongoing challenges in respect of the filling of certain specialist roles in overseas deployments,” it added.

The UNDOF was established on 31 May 1974 by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 350 (1974), following the agreed disengagement of the Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights in May 1974.

UNDOF supervises the implementation of the Disengagement Agreement, maintaining an area of separation between the forces which is over 75 kilometres long.

Ireland has been involved in UNDOF since 22 June 2013. The 67th Infantry Group deployed to UNDOF in April 2023 for a six-month tour of duty, with 138 personnel in Camp Faouar.

The Tánaiste will also seek sign off for up to thirteen Defence Forces personnel to service in the UN authorised International Security Presence in Kosovo (KFOR) for a further year.

The KFOR mission is based in Pristina and was established after the 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia ended following a 78-day Nato air campaign against Serbian troops.

Ireland has participated in KFOR since 1999 and there are currently 13 Defence Forces personnel in KFOR headquarters.

Dáil approval is not required in relation to the renewal of these missions, though deployments are subject to renewal by the UN at all times. 

Apprenticeship pay

Separately, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris is set to tell Cabinet that his Department is currently examining the issue of apprenticeship pay and how apprentices can be better financially supported.

The Minister will bring amendments to the Construction Licencing Bill to Cabinet today.

The Bill was published in March. At the time, the Department said it will make construction “an even safer place to work” and also make the industry “more attractive to future workers”.

Harris will confirm that his Department, alongside the Department of Enterprise, has commissioned a piece of research to establish mechanisms to pay apprentices more, including through possible legislative change.

It’s understood that this will include engaging with employers on obstacles they are facing when recruiting apprentices and their views on a minimum wage for apprentices.

The Department is also examining how better to support businesses.

Harris will also confirm to Cabinet that the country is on course to recruit the highest number of apprentices this year, with 3,000 people having registered in the first five months of the year.

The Dáil resumes today following a recess last week. 

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