A proposal to send the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) to Mali on peacekeeping duties is being actively considered by the Government, RTÉ News has learned.

While no final political decision has been made, the proposal to deploy the special forces unit to the West African country would be favourably viewed, two sources told RTÉ.

The ARW has not been deployed overseas on an active mission for a decade.

Visiting the 20 Irish members of the Defence Forces who are training the Malian army, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked if Ireland planned to increase its presence on the EU Training Mission (EUTM).

He said: "We have been here in Mali as part of the EU training mission for five years now.

"Given the impact the region has on the rest of the world in terms of migration and being a source of terrorism in some cases, in terms of climate change, there will be an Irish presence in Africa for quite a period to come.

"It’s not just the peacekeeping and Irish aid. It’s the embassies. We are upgrading the embassy in Monrovia nearer to full embassy status.

"We are increasing the aid budget across Africa including in Ethiopia where I will be quite soon. We have made no decisions on future missions and it is under consideration."

Also speaking to RTÉ News in Mali, the Defence Forces Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett said: "It is ten years since the ARW deployed overseas in an active mission. Obviously they provide protection for vital missions like this, but almost on an ad hoc basis.

"I think there are opportunities there, but once again it will be a political decision and a decision for Government."

The ARW has previously been deployed in East Timor, Liberia, and most recently in Chad.


Separately, Mr Varadkar responded to remarks made on RTÉ’s This Week programme by the General Secretary of PDFORRA, the representative organisation for soldiers and non-commissioned officers, who said that he would find it "very difficult" to recommend a career in the army under the current pay and conditions.

The Taoiseach told reporters that he was "disappointed" in the comments and said that Defence Forces allowance would be looked at by the Public Pay Commission.

He said: "I was a little bit disappointed to hear that comment because joining the Defence Forces is always about more than money.

"It’s an opportunity to serve your country, an opportunity to travel the world and an opportunity to learn new skills which of course can bring you to future careers.

"But I acknowledge that low pay is an issue for the Defence Forces ... Irish Defence Forces are different from other public servants, (such as) the fact that they serve overseas.

"They might be the things the Public Pay Commission might be able to recommend in terms of increases over and above the ones due."