Irish naval crews to be deployed to the Mediterranean this summer to target arms smugglers to Libya

Irish naval crews to be deployed to the Mediterranean this summer to target arms smugglers to Libya

The Irish naval ship the LE William Butler Yeats will be deployed on a mission to the Mediterranean this summer targeting arms smugglers to Libya.

rish navy crews are currently training for the deployment in June and July as part of Operation Irini.

The operation is part of an EU and United Nations mission – the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean Operation (EUNAVFORMED) – that is headquartered in Rome.

It was established in 2020 to counter the flow of arms to the north African country following a number of civil wars and political unrest that has destabilised the region since the death of former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gadaffi in 2011.

The Irish crew will be involved in information, surveillance and reconnaissance operations (ISR) while also while also “engaging in Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) operations on a regular basis, a capability in which the Irish Navy excels, from experience in the North East Atlantic Ocean,” according to a statement from the Defence Forces.

“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.”

Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy said of previous EU missions in which Irish naval ships were involved in the rescue of trafficked migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean in 2015 and 2017.

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

Commodore Michael Malone, Flag Officer Commanding Naval Service, said: “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.”

According to EUNAVFOR, the mission involves carrying out “inspections of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material” as well as monitoring suspected arms smugglers from aerial and land routes as well as gathering information on illicit exports of petroleum, crude oil and similar products from Libya.”

The mission also involves helping to disrupt “the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks through information gathering and patrolling by planes.”

The announcement of the upcoming operation comes after Jacqui McCrum, Secretary General of the Irish Defence Department, visited Operation Irini headquarters in February following a personal visit to Rome in which she “reaffirmed the importance of the close relationship between Ireland and Operation Irini.”

“Collectively 23 EU member states are currently supporting the operation with personnel and assets and Ireland is giving the operation an important contribution thanks to the Irish personnel deployed in OHQ, (operational headquarters),” according to the operation’s news archive.

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