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Historic deal could see Irish Army using British vehicles

Allison Morris Security Correspondent a.morris@irishnews.com

IRISH soldiers could soon be using armoured vehicles that once belonged to the British Army as part of an historic agreement on de-fence co-operation between the two governments.

Later this month an agreement will be signed that will ratify unprecedented levels of co operation between the countries' armed forces.

The agreement involves the Irish Army providing peace keeping training to British troops in war zones across the world.

In return the cash-strapped army will be gifted equipment, including armoured vehicles that are surplus to requirements of the British forces.

The move could result in the Irish government taking possession of expensive equipment no longer needed by British troops, including vehicles and equipment formerly used by the army when stationed in Northern Ireland.

As the British Army updates hardware and vehicles the Irish defence forces will now be the major recipient of all surplus equipment.

The British defence minister Michael Fallon will sign the 'memorandum of understanding' at a ceremony in Dublin later this month along with the Republic's minister for defence Simon Coveney.

While Irish soldiers have trained with the British Army in the past this is the first official treaty between the two armed forces ensuring greater future cooperation.

It is a part of an ongoing 'normalisation' of relationships that have been developing between the two countries since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

In 2013 the British and Irish sent the first joint task-force of troops to war torn Mali. The 18 strong task-force that included soldiers from Northern Ireland were deployed under the umbrella of the Royal Irish Regiment.

The soldiers who all volunteered for the European Union led mission - codenamed Operation Newcombe were deployed in a peacekeeping role along with training of the Malian Army.

They were also used in duties such as patrolling and guarding bases and working with the local population.

While cooperation between the two armies, who were said to be helping "maintain security and build long-term stability in the west African country and wider region" was on an informal footing the new agreement will cement it on a more permanent basis.

The republic's former minister for defence Alan Shatter described the 'normalisation' of relations between the two governments as a positive development.

"It is a historic step and provides a tangible manifestation of the very positive relations and mutual respect that now exists between the two countries," Mr Shatter added.

* AGREEMENT: British defence minister Michael Fallon, far left, is to sign a 'memorandum of understanding' with Irish counterpart Simon Coveney later this month

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