IRELAND'S contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon will be almost halved from next month.
The Irish are currently operating alongside the Finns in a joint battalion there. But the next contingent of troops to be deployed there, the 42nd infantry group, will consist of only 181 personnel, compared with the current detachment of 330 troops.
The 42nd group will fly out to Lebanon at the end of next month, when operational control of the battalion will be handed over to the Finns, with the Irish boss, Lieut Col Ray Yorke, being appointed second-in-command.
In the meantime, the 181 troops are undergoing a week-long mission readiness exercise at the Glen of Imaal in west Wicklow.
About half of the troops are from Cathal Brugha barracks in Dublin and the rest are mainly from Dundalk.
The exercise is focusing on their armoured-force protection capabilities as well as patrolling, communications, medical and operational expertise.
They will operate close to the "blue line", which divides Lebanon from Israel.
This has meant that during the current transitional period, the Defence Forces have about 550 personnel on duty overseas, the biggest deployment of peacekeeping troops abroad for several years.
Some of the equipment used in south Lebanon has also been transferred to the Golan Heights to meet Irish needs there.