Army Ranger Wing replaced by Garda for Coveney visit to Kyiv – The Irish Times
The Defense Forces special forces unit, the Army Ranger Wing (ARW), was prevented from protecting Simon Coveney during his visit to Ukraine before the minister entered the war-torn country.
It was decided that the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU) would provide overt protection to the Foreign and Defense Minister during his one-day visit to Kyiv.
The decision angered senior Defense Force officers as they felt the ARW was better placed to undertake close protection missions in volatile areas.
“What’s the real point of spending money on the ARW if we’re not going to use them?” Better to disband them if the government doesn’t need them,” a defense source said.
Asked about the decision by The Irish Times, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said the department “does not comment on security arrangements”.
The ARW was initially in charge of the mission and had put in place a security plan and an experienced team to carry it out. This included a doctor and soldiers who spoke Russian.
However, Defense Force Headquarters were informed that the ARW was being relieved of their duties and that the Garda would deal exclusively with security.
The explanation was that there were legal concerns about sending a heavily armed Defense Force unit overseas to an active war zone.
The nature of these concerns is unclear. The government’s triple-lock policy, which requires Dáil, government and UN approval before deploying Irish troops overseas, only applies to contingents of 12 or more. The ARW deployment was to be less than 12.
A Garda source said the decision was made on the basis of a “security assessment”.
Mr. Coveney was transported to Poland on Wednesday by a Defense Forces plane before being escorted to the Ukrainian border by the Polish army. He was later picked up by Ukrainian special forces, who provided transport during his visit. He was taken to Kyiv where he met senior politicians and assured them of Ireland’s continued support.
Throughout his visit, he was accompanied by heavily armed members of the ERU, the Garda’s best-trained tactical unit.
It is made up of several former members of the ARW and the two units train together frequently.
Members of the Defense Forces pointed out that when other national leaders visited Ukraine, they were protected by their country’s special forces units.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was protected by SAS troops during his walkabout in Kyiv.
Although Russian forces have halted their ground attack on Kyiv to concentrate on the east, the capital continues to come under missile attack.
“The ERU is extremely well trained and competent. But close protection in a war zone is an SOF [Special Operations Forces] task, not a police task,” an army officer said.
“I don’t know the reason for this decision, but it’s a bit of a ‘fuck you’,” they said.
Another source pointed out that nearly all ARW members had now rotated through Mali, where the unit is contributing to a UN mission, at least once and many had combat experience.
“This is a massive betrayal,” said independent TD and former ARW officer Cathal Berry. “The police should be used for police functions and the army for military functions.”
He said the Garda were unlikely to have secure communications, meaning it would have been easier to track Mr Coveney’s location.
The protection of politicians in Ireland is usually provided by the Special Detective Unit (SDU), with the ERU and Defense Forces also contributing during high-profile events, such as the visit of a US President.
SDU officers generally provide protection during overseas visits to peaceful countries. But in recent years, the ARW has been enlisted on ministerial visits to volatile areas such as Mali and Lebanon.
It also provided protective services to diplomatic missions abroad during times of unrest.