An Irish Navy ship has been tasked to the Mediterranean to renew efforts to rescue migrants.
The LE Niamh is replacing the LE Eithne which berthed in Malta during the week after saving 3,377 men, women and children from waters between Libya and Sicily over the last eight weeks.
The decision to send the Irish Navy was taken earlier this year in response to the huge numbers of migrants dying as they fled war, persecution and crippled economies and attempted to make it to Europe.
But documents have exposed the Irish Government's reluctance to join an international humanitarian missions over the previous two years as officials advised a "low profile" during discussions and warned increasing rescue missions could encourage life-threatening migration.
Simon Coveney, Defence Minister, met the crew of the LE Eithne as their mission ended.
"I conveyed to the personnel our deep appreciation for the outstanding manner in which they performed their duties on overseas service on behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland. I am pleased to be here today to convey my appreciation to you, in advance of your deployment," he said.
The LE Niamh under the command of Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wall is travelling from Haulbowline, Cork tonight and is expected to remain in the Mediterranean until September.
It has 55 sailors and two medics from the Army Medical Corps on board.
Mr Coveney added: "I want to wish Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wall and the crew of LE Niamh a safe and successful mission. You are travelling to the Mediterranean with my best wishes and with those of the rest of the nation."