Defence minister Willie O'Dea visiting Irish troops in Chad

THE government has spent around €1m a week on Defence Forces operations in the African country of Chad, according to figures obtained by the Sunday Tribune.

Since Irish involvement in the mission began, the total expenditure until the end of February this year had reached just under €60m.

Irish troop deployment and maintenance for the mission began in February last year and is understood to account for the vast majority of costs.

More minor expenditure is associated with the establishment of mission control in Paris in 2007.

Since General Pat Nash was given command of the operation on 15 October, 2007, the total cost of operations has been €59.85m, representing a weekly cost of €855,000.

Amongst those costs was €16m for "overseas allow­ances", €8.2m for transport, €5.7m for engineering and equipment and just over €1m for building and infrastructural works.

The cost breakdown also lists a total expenditure of €10.4m on ordnance equipment, tents, ammunition, rations and water.

Travel and freight services for cargo and personnel added up to €14.6m.

However, an unconfirmed portion of these costs could yet be refunded to the government as a result of negotiations with the UN which took over operations from the European EUFOR command last March. A final agreement on this has yet to be made.

Fine Gael spokesman on defence Jimmy Deenihan said that while the costs associated with the mission appear high, it was transparent from day one and had full political backing.

"The original estimate was €54m and there was total agreement and support for the mission from all sides of the house," he said.

"It was the first time Ireland was involved in a force of such magnitude that was controlled by the EU and that is why people think it was so significant.

"When it was started the public finances were in better condition. Now it has become a UN mission and it won't cost as much."