6 July 2015

Ireland has never voiced any opposition to search and rescue at EU level nor was the Minister advised to do so. Internal briefing pointing to one of the unintended consequences of such operations, namely the risk of more smuggling activity in even more dangerous and unseaworthy vessels. The briefing supplied was for the purposes of providing a full picture and was entirely valid at that time. To construe this as Ireland being opposed to search and rescue is simply incorrect.

The focus at the time on replacing the Italian 'Mare Nostrum' operation with a Frontex co-ordinated operation was not likely to involve Ireland as we are not Members on account of our Schengen status. Where we could help was in taking in refugees and humanitarian aid and we did this.

The situation continued to deteriorate however in 2015 as the numbers taking to sea escalated accompanied by major loss of life. The EU put together a much broader response following an emergency EU council in April. Ireland quickly intervened to deploy the LE Eithne and also to take additional refugees on resettlement. However our actions were on a bilateral basis with Italy rather than participation in a Frontex operation.

The reality is that the response in the EU to the Mediterranean crisis has evolved as events unfolded and this is true for all member states including Ireland.