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The crew of the LÉ William Butler Yeats 'manning the rails' as they report from patrol. Alamy Stock Photo
Operation Irini

Irish Naval Service to send ship to combat arms smugglers off coast of Libya

The Government cleared the way this morning for the deployment.

THE DEFENCE FORCES has confirmed that a naval ship is to be sent to the Mediterranean to assist in an operation targeting arms smugglers to Libya. 

Operation Irini is a European naval operation headquartered in Rome – it is tasked with managing the flow of arms into the war torn north African country.

In 2014 Libya split in two as rival administrations, based in the east and the west of the country, battled each other for supremacy. 

Much of the recent fighting has been centred around the city of Tripoli and involves a diverse number of militias and rebel groups.

The fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011 has led to a number of civil wars. 

To combat this problem and bring stability to the region the EU and UN initiated Operation Irini.

A small team of Irish Defence Forces personnel are already working in Rome on the mission – drawn from the naval service and Air Corps. 

Recently The Journal visited them and spoke to them about their work which is centred around intelligence work and putting together operations to search ships. 

Now Ireland has decided to increase its footprint on the operation and a naval vessel, LÉ William Butler Yeats will head to the Mediterranean to carry out surveillance and monitoring of shipping in the area.

It is not the first time that Irish ships have deployed to the seas off Libya – they had participated in a successful operation rescuing migrants.

The Cabinet approved the deployment and the Irish Defence Forces has welcomed news of the mission.

Sources have said that the deployment of a naval service vessel on a overseas deployment would not only build Ireland’s reputation abroad but also be a key recruitment incentive for the ranks of the navy.  

A Defence Forces statement said that the ship will deploy in June and July. 

The LÉ William Butler Yeats is set to commence training for the mission immediately.

The main role will be Information, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations while also engaging in Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) operations on a regular basis.

cobh-cork-ireland-07th-mar-2019-an-advanced-landing-party-of-the-irish-naval-vessel-le-william-butler-yeats-speed-towards-cobh-on-their-rib-to-prepare-for-their-ships-docking-at-the-town-in-co-c An Irish Naval RHIB operating in Cork Harbour. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Irish navy has developed a significant amount of tactics in boarding techniques down through the years.  

The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Seán Clancy welcomed this announcement stating, 

“The deployment of LÉ William Butler Yeats on OP Irini will provide the operation with highly skilled and capable personnel with experience in Maritime Defence and Security Operations (MDSO) throughout Ireland’s maritime domain and on previous overseas missions – OP Pontus and Sophia (migrant rescue missions),” he said.  

The Chief of Staff confirmed, in his statement, that the deployment was a key component of their recruitment efforts. 

“This deployment is crucial to the regeneration of Ireland’s Navy and is directly linked our efforts to recruit, retain and incentivise seagoing,” he added. 

The Naval Service’s most senior officer Flag Officer Commanding Naval Service, Commodore Michael Malone, said the Irish navy’s ability to operate in challenging environments was key to the deployment.  

“With ambitions for the expansion of the Naval Service as outlined in the Commission on the Defence Forces report, this deployment presents an opportunity to build on the experiences gained through previous maritime overseas missions. Our sailors bring vital experience to bear in what remains a dynamic operational role,” he said. 

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