Proud dad returns from Syria to give son first salute
A proud dad who returned from a tour of duty in Syria so that he could formally give the first salute as an officer to his newly commissioned son says he has no fear about returning.
Battalion Quarter Master Sergeant (BQMS) John Nolan from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, attached to Stephens Barracks in Kilkenny, has been in the Golan Heights in Syria as part of the Irish peacekeeping forces since March but got leave so could return home for the commissioning ceremony of 10 new cadets at Haulbowline in Cork.
It was a break with tradition and only the second time in Irish naval history that two new cadets received their first salute as an officer from their fathers, both non-commissioned officers in the Defence Forces.
Usually this honour is reserved for the Master of Arms.
Philip Molloy from Cobh in Co Cork also received his first salute from his dad, Chief Petty Officer Thomas Molloy.
Veteran soldier BQMS Nolan, who is on his 11th tour of duty with the Defence Forces having previously served in Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, returns to Syria in the next few days but says he has no fear about completing the mission.
The level of risk peacekeeping troops are exposed to has increased since the civil war in Syria moved into the demilitarised zone.
"It's a typical United Nations mission and we were well trained before we went out - so it's not as big a problem as sometimes you might think, even though it has got a bit more intense over the past few months," he said.
"I'm happy to go back. It's a good battalion. Some of them are very young so it's a great experience for them to further their careers.
"That's their job and what they signed up for but they're well protected and were well trained before they went out," he added.
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, who attended the commissioning ceremony accompanied by the Chief-of-Staff of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Conor O'Boyle, expressed his confidence in UNDOF commander Lieut Gen Iqbal Singh Singha, whose order for Filipino peacekeepers to surrender to Syrian rebels was rejected, leading to a call for an investigation into his actions by the Filipinos.
The order had been given after the al-Qaeda-linked rebels overran UN positions in which there were Filipino peacekeepers after the capture of 43 Fijian peacekeepers.
Mr Coveney said: "He had to make very difficult decisions but I believe he made the right decisions when he was trying to manage a very volatile situation.
"More importantly, Irish troops and our commanding officer in the area have confidence in him."
But when asked if he thought the UNDOF commander had been right to order the Filipino soldiers to surrender, Mr Coveney said he was not going to comment, adding: "I'm not a soldier, I'm a minister."
He said the Irish Government was seeking assurances on a review of UN operations.
Meanwhile, the 10 new cadets who received their Presidential Commissions - and also included Thomas Mullaney (Cork), Sean Lenehan (Dublin), Aron Nutley (Monaghan), Stuart Byrne (Wicklow), Michael Cowman (Wexford), Gerard Fannin (Clare) and Best Overall Cadet Ben Crumplin (Cork) - return to the books to complete their studies for a BSc in Nautical Science at the National Maritime College of Ireland.