Independent MEP Luke Ming Flanagan and the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, have become embroiled in a row over an attack on an EU training base in Mali, where Irish military personnel are deployed.

None of the 11 members of the Irish Defence Forces based at the Kolikoro Training Centre, 60km outside of the capital Bamako, were injured in last Sunday’s attack, which involved two vehicles loaded with explosives.

In a statement, Mr Flanagan described it as "odd" that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Kehoe, had "still not acknowledged that the attack has happened or addressed the fact that Irish Defence Force members are being put at risk".

Observing that the attack was "concerning as it is not isolated", and noting that it followed a recent visit to the specific camp by the Taoiseach, Mr Flanagan called on both men to issue a statement about what had transpired. 

In reply, Mr Kehoe said: "Clearly, MEP Flanagan is more focused on grabbing cheap headlines for his re-election bid, than showing any regard for the important and ongoing work of the Defence Forces overseas".

Mr Kehoe's spokesman said the minister had received "a full briefing" in relation to a number of incidents in Mali but, given the "comprehensive statement" from the Defence Forces, "further political comment" was not required.

Mr Flanagan had also raised concerns about plans to send the Defence Forces' Army Ranger Wing to take part in a separate mission in Mali, called the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.

The MEP said that given three peacekeepers were killed last week, Mr Varadkar needed to "carefully consider the risks associated with the mission" and to "outline the benefits of sending more Irish soldiers to Mali at this point".

Mr Kehoe responded by saying: "In relation to the prospect of deploying Defence Forces personnel to the MINUSMA mission in Mali, no decision has been made in relation to this proposal".

However, regarding the 20 Irish personnel involved in the EU training mission, Cabinet approval was given on Tuesday to renew the mandate for a further 12 months.

Minister Kehoe said: "Defence Forces personnel are deployed into dangerous environments to support and protect civilians and vulnerable communities under threat from significant conflict. 

"That is what the Defence Forces excel at and it is why the Irish people have such pride in the work they have done throughout 60 years of peacekeeping.

"My job as Minister is to ensure that the requisite supports and force protection are in place to ensure, as far as possible, that our personnel are appropriately protected, but as I continuously state, no mission is without danger. 

"In this instance in Mali, the [Kolikoro] camp was not penetrated and all Irish personnel are accounted for and are safe, so the force protection measures worked."