The Defence Forces: Ireland has been without a significant presence abroad since troops left Chad this year

A TOTAL of €5.6m is owed to Ireland by the United Nations for overseas peacekeeping carried out by Defence Forces soldiers.

The debt has yet to be paid despite tentative government plans to send Irish troops back to Lebanon early next year.

The Department of Defence confirmed that more than €5m was currently due to Ireland, the bulk of which related to the movement of equipment to Chad.

Another bill – believed to be for a similar amount – has yet to be submitted to the UN but will be by the end of the year, it is understood.

The unpaid money has not halted plans under consideration to send 500 Irish soldiers on overseas UN duty next year. The chief of staff of the Defence Forces confirmed last week that a mission to Lebanon was being actively investigated, as first reported in the Sunday Tribune a fortnight ago.

Military sources said the backlog would eventually be refunded and that it was not uncommon for the UN to owe Ireland money.

A statement from the Department of Defence said: "A total €5.6m approximately is due to Ireland, the bulk of which is due in respect of the equipment deployed by the Defence Forces to
the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (Minurcat).

"In addition, a claim is currently being processed for submission to the UN in respect of the repatriation of equipment from Chad following the recent withdrawal of the Irish Battalion from Minurcat.

"Since 1 January 2010, the UN has paid a total of €3m approximately to Ireland in respect of costs associated with the deployment of... personnel to UN missions, the bulk of which was in respect of the Minurcat mission."

Lieut Gen Sean McCann, the chief-of-staff, said last week that Lebanon was one of a number of options being considered for an overseas posting. Ireland has been without a significant presence abroad since troops returned from Chad earlier this year, the PDForra conference was told.