A proposal to deploy the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) abroad for the first time in over a decade is to be formally made to Cabinet next week.

The Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe will seek Government approval for the deployment with the UN peacekeeping force in Mali before bringing the proposal before the Dáil.

The Army Ranger Wing has previously served abroad in East Timor and Liberia, but has not been deployed overseas since serving in Chad in 2008.

The move by Mr Kehoe to deploy the special forces unit in Mali, which was first reported by RTÉ in January, has been under consideration by the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence for some time.

It is understood the proposal is to send a 12-man team of Rangers to conduct long-range patrols as part of the UN mission MINUSMA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali), which has been in operation since 2013.

The peacekeepers were deployed in response to an upsurge in violence in northern Mali led by Al Qaeda-affiliated militant groups.

The violence has since moved southwards to the centre of the country.

The number of people killed in the conflict in Mali quadrupled between 2015 and 2018, due to the spread of the fighting.

There are currently more than 15,000 uniformed peacekeepers in the MINUSMA force, drawn mostly from African countries and Bangladesh. Germany and China have also contributed around 400 troops each.

The MINUSMA mission was dubbed "the most dangerous" UN mission by The Washington Post. Almost 200 peacekeepers have been killed serving on the mission since it was established.

Ambushes and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have inflicted many of the casualties.

There are 20 members of the Defence Forces currently serving in Mali as part of an EU Training Mission (EUTM), which instructs the Malian Army in bomb disposal, human rights law, anti-ambush and urban combat tactics.