Troops on new mission to Lebanon
Published 15/12/2010 | 05:00
IRISH peacekeeping troops are heading back to Lebanon in the new year.
The Government yesterday sanctioned a recommendation by Defence Minister Tony Killeen that 440 troops be deployed with the United Nations force UNIFIL, in south Lebanon, in the second quarter of 2011.
Mr Killeen will seek the approval of the Dail when it resumes after Christmas and that will complete the triple-lock mechanism of sanction, before sending soldiers overseas.
The military authorities and the Department of Defence have been lobbying hard for a replacement mission abroad since the unexpected withdrawal from the UN mission in Chad earlier this year and the scaling down of involvement in Kosovo.
Military chiefs warned that overseas service was the lifeblood of the organisation and injected a major boost to the morale of the troops, as well as providing invaluable experience and training for all ranks.
After a cabinet meeting yesterday, Mr Killeen said it was vitally important for Ireland to maintain a level of commitment to international peacekeeping operations and the obligations it had assumed through its membership of the UN.
"Overseas operations also contribute greatly to the professional development of the Defence Forces," he added.
Expressing his delight, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieut General Sean McCann, said his organisation had a long and proud tradition of service in Lebanon and looked forward to using their skills again in the region.
The current strength of the UNIFIL force is 12,000, drawn from a total of 31 nations.