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File photo Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Here's why a very small number of Irish troops are off to Sierra Leone

The move got Cabinet approval today.

IRELAND IS PLANNING to send a small number of Irish Defence Forces personnel to Sierra Leone in West Africa to help in the fight against the Ebola virus.

The move got Cabinet approval today after Defence Minister Simon Coveney brought a proposal to send some Defence Forces personnel to the region.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One this lunchtime, Coveney said that three Defence Forces personnel would be sent to “shore up” the activities of the Irish embassy in Sierra Leone.

Their role will involve reviewing and enhancing the embassy’s contingency plans for security-related events and providing advice and support in logistics and emergency planning.

In addition up to six personnel will be sent to work with the British Army in their efforts to help health services in the region.

Coveney also said that the government is considering requests from Irish aid agencies GOAL and Concern that Defence Forces personnel could volunteer to help in their aid efforts.

“This is harrowing work. This is things like collecting dead bodies and burying them to make sure the disease doesn’t spread,” Coveney said today.

Asked what would happen if an Irish citizen working in the region were to contract Ebola, Coveney said that the medical advice may be for them to stay local rather than be returned to Ireland. But he said it would be treated on a “case-by-case” basis.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure facilities are in place to ensure that if a person needs to be medically evacuated within reason then we can do that,”  the minister added. 

The Ebola virus has already killed more than 4,800 people, most in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Underfunded health systems in the region have been crippled by the disease, which has spiraled out of control and infected more than 13,000 people.

Ireland has contributed over €17 million to the affected countries in West Africa including €4 million for Ebola treatment facilities in Sierra Leone and Liberia which are two of the worst affected countries.

Read: Google starts helping the fight against Ebola by donating €8 million

Read: Zero… That’s how many Ebola patients are being treated right now at one centre in Liberia

Read: Would ambulance crews be ready for a case of Ebola here? Some staff aren’t convinced

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