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Saturday 3 December 2016

Soldier who died weeks before peace-keeping duties 'will be with his comrades in spirit'

Greg Harkin

Published 25/10/2016 | 10:00

Minister of Defence Paul Kehoe TD inspects the troops of the 109th Infantry Batallion as they march past in The Diamond, Donegal Town, Co. Donegal, ahead of the troops deployment to Lebanon as part of UNIFIL.
Minister of Defence Paul Kehoe TD inspects the troops of the 109th Infantry Batallion as they march past in The Diamond, Donegal Town, Co. Donegal, ahead of the troops deployment to Lebanon as part of UNIFIL.
109th Bn Contigent Commander Lt Col Stephen Howard at the parade in Donegal Town prior to their departure for Lebanon. (North West Newspix)

A soldier who died weeks before he was due to on peace-keeping duties in Lebanon will be with his comrades in spirit,his commanding officer has said.

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Cpl Gavin Carey drowned off a beach near Bundoran, Co Donegal, in August.

He had been at nearby Finner Camp on a training exercise.

Yesterday 131 personnel of Cpl Carey’s 109th Infantry Battalion paraded through Donegal Town ahead of their deployment to south Lebanon at the end of the month.

Father-of-one Gavin Carey was swept away by a riptide
Father-of-one Gavin Carey was swept away by a riptide

The soldier’s mother Patricia was joined by other family members as he was remember by Defence Minister Paul Kehoe in his address to the troops.

The UN mission is being led Lt Col Stephen Howard, his fourth tour to Lebanon.

109th Bn Contigent Commander Lt Col Stephen Howard at the parade in Donegal Town prior to their departure for Lebanon. (North West Newspix)
109th Bn Contigent Commander Lt Col Stephen Howard at the parade in Donegal Town prior to their departure for Lebanon. (North West Newspix)

On an emotional day for the defence forces personnel, Lt Col Howard said: “Cpl Carey may no longer be with us but he was certainly here today in spirit.

“It was a really, really emotional day for all of us. We were at the start of our training when he died and it has had a deep effect on us but more importantly on his family and we wanted them to be here with us today.

“He will be with us through our tour of duty in the Lebanon because Gavin Carey remains part and parcel of the 109th Battalion.”

Minister Kehoe was accompanied by the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM.

“I attended the funeral of Cpl Carey in Mullingar in August and I know the troops are going without their colleague. He would have been here today but it wasn’t to be, so it was important that he was remembered and is remembered by all of us,” said the minister.

Among those on their first overseas mission is Lt Grace Fanning (33) from Carlow who married fiancé Cork nurse Carol Brady in May.

The naval officer is travelling as a military policewoman on the mission.

“I will definitely miss my wife,” said Lt Fanning.

“I’ve been on the high seas with the naval service for 15 years but this is my first overseas deployment and it’s very exciting.

“I am a bit of an action woman so I volunteered for this deployment and I am really looking forward to my role in the Lebanon.

The deployment of the 109th Infantry Battalion will see the Irish contribution to the UNIFIL mission increase from its current level of 220 to a total of 370, including UNIFIL HQ appointments, representing Ireland’s largest current overseas deployment.

Once deployed, the 109th Infantry Battalion will assume command of the multinational IRISHFINNBATT, which includes a company of soldiers from Finland and an Estonian platoon.

The personnel travelling with the 109th Infantry Battalion represent 24 counties across Ireland with the main contributing unit being the 28 Infantry Battalion which is based in Finner Camp and has 59 personnel on the mission.

The next three largest units are the 7th Infantry Battalion from Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin with 32 personnel, the Naval Service from Haulbowline, Cork with 21 personnel and Cpl Carey’s 6th Infantry Battalion from Custume Barracks in Athlone with 19 personnel.

Hundreds of family members and members of the public lined the streets around The Diamond in Donegal Town for yesterday’s parade.

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