100 extra troops now headed to keep peace in Lebanon
More than 100 extra Irish troops are being deployed with Unifil, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon, to fill a gap left by the withdrawal of Finnish and Estonian soldiers from the mission.
This will bring the overall number of members of the Defence Forces based in Lebanon to 467, which is the biggest deployment there since 2011.
It will increase the size of the Irish contribution to peace operations overseas to around 700 personnel and, as most of them are drawn from the Army, will represent about 10pc of the strength of that part of the military organisation.
Writing in the Irish Independent today, Minister with responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe confirmed the Government plans to provide more peacekeepers to help the Lebanese authorities.
The minister is expected to bring a memorandum before the Cabinet shortly to outline his proposals to deploy an additional 107 Defence Forces personnel, primarily privates and non-commissioned officers (NCO) with a small number of officers.
Ireland's contribution to the mission currently stands at some 380 personnel, who are part of a joint Irish/Finnish battalion in the area around At Tiri, with two military posts on the 'Blue Line', which separates Lebanon and Israel. The Estonian contingent is also involved there. The Finnish government says its troops are being withdrawn because of other national commitments and will leave in November. The Estonians will pull out at the same time.
After examining several options, Department of Defence officials are in discussion with the Czech authorities to replace the Finns and Estonians.
In the meantime, the Irish offered to fill the gap for a year from November and send out an extra two companies with the next contingent when the existing battalion hands over after a six-month deployment.
The decision is seen as a major boost to the prospects of privates and NCOs gaining overseas experience.