Military personnel from both countries were part of a joint British/Irish team that travelled on the same plane to Mali last month as part of an EU mission.
The operation was described as “historic” by a Major in the Royal Irish Regiment and has been undertaken to provide training and advice to the Malian armed forces.
But an MoD source told The Irish Post that such missions were not unusual and a regular occurrence in the North: “It’s about interoperability,” they said.
“Forces learn to work and understand each other’s chain of command and operations do not involve a great deal of work to organise.”
The source explained that helicopter units from both the British Army and the Defence Forces worked together last week to bring animal feed and agricultural supplies to isolated farms in the Mourne Mountains.
The operation involved both forces using the British Army base in Ballykinlar, Co. Down.
“There were two Chinook and two IDF helicopters working to bring supplies to livestock and farmland cut-off by the bad weather. So you had Irish Army helicopters working from a British Army base. There’s no major red tape,” our source confirmed.
“In terms of the world picture, the numbers are only small but there are joint operations in Afghanistan. Soldiers are soldiers; they get on, do the job and let other people do the talking.”
In Mali, eight members of the Defence Forces, including a lieutenant colonel, travelled as part of the joint operation. Major Simon Holden, from 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment, who is commanding officer of the infantry training team said: “We have conducted several weeks of pre-deployment training together at Ternhill barracks to prepare for the tour. It is a historic occasion.
“The Irish Defence Forces are well versed in training and mentoring roles and it will be a privilege to command them.”
The team will work alongside French, Czech and Danish forces as part of the EU mission to bring stability to the region.
The training mission, under the command of French Brigadier General Francois Lecointre, is expected to continue for about 15 months and will involve around 500 staff from 22 EU member states.