Boomtime for army bomb team
Army bomb disposal teams have had their busiest year since the height of the Troubles in 1979.
The ordnance teams were deployed to 236 call-outs in 2011, up substantially from last year's total of 199.
They handled 54 viable improvised devices, which are built to ensure that detonation can cause harm, loss of life or damage to property. This compared with 49 similar devices last year and 18 four years ago.
In an end-of-year report, published last night, the Defence Forces said it had carried out 1,880 cash-in-transit escorts, 118 high-security prisoner escorts and eight others providing protection for explosives.
Troops also continued to provide armed security at the maximum security Portlaoise jail, where subversive prisoners and major gangland thugs are housed, and were on duty at Government Buildings.
The soldiers were also busy during the high-profile state visits of Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama when more than 3,000 members of the Defence Forces were deployed.
These included bomb disposal teams, specialist engineer search squads, naval divers, a ground-to-air defence missile battery, air-space security patrols and the Army Rangers.
Overseas, 530 personnel are serving in 11 missions across 14 different countries. The biggest deployment of 440 is in south Lebanon, where the Defence Forces returned in June after previously being based there from 1978 to 2001 and also for a brief period in 2006.
The troops in the Irish headquarters, Camp Shamrock in Tibnin, will enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner but will continue normal patrolling in their operational area.
From the 105 Infantry Battalion and drawn mainly from Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny and Clonmel, they will be there until May.
A total of 47 Irish personnel have died while serving in the cause of international peace in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the Air Corps was used for the evacuation of Irish citizens from Tripoli Airport in Libya during the security crisis there and has carried out 68 air ambulance missions this year, including the transatlantic transport of a patient from Casement Aerodrome at Baldonnel to Logan International Airport in Boston.
The Naval Service carried out 1,296 boardings, issued 42 warnings and a dozen detentions of fishing trawlers suspected of breaching regulations during 1,480 patrol days securing Irish maritime assets and 15pc of EU waters.
Since 2007, the Naval Service has prevented €1.7bn worth of drugs getting on to the streets of Ireland and Europe as a result of interventions at sea; while specialist divers took part in 89 operations, searching for missing persons, and helped in 22 search-and-rescue operations.
During the year, Defence Forces personnel also helped with firefighting efforts in the north-west, dropping more than half-a-million litres of water during the four-day operation in Donegal and Mayo, while also providing 60 troops for a search for a missing person, 34 personnel for flood assistance and 40 troops on standby during a threatened strike by firefighters in Co Roscommon.