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Gunfire in Wicklow ahead of Defence Forces' mission

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Ronan O'Brien, (front) from Kilkenny and Commandant, Paul Kelly

Ronan O'Brien, (front) from Kilkenny and Commandant, Paul Kelly

Ronan O'Brien, (front) from Kilkenny and Commandant, Paul Kelly

MOST days, it is simply a picturesque valley in Co Wicklow.

But the Glen of Imaal was alight with gunfire yesterday as 130 Defence Forces troops prepared for their deployment to the war-torn Golan Heights later this month.

The 48th Infantry Group are entering the final phase of training in preparation for their deployment to the United Nations Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF).

The Mission Readiness Exercise puts commanders and soldiers through a demanding series of scenarios indicative of the current situation in the Middle East.

It is based on threats that may be encountered in the volatile mission area.

Troops will face simulated explosive strikes, be asked to secure, extract and evacuate personnel, as well as anti-ambush tactics and detailed operational planning.

There is a variety of experience levels within the group, from soldiers and officers on their first deployment, to highly experienced senior non-commissioned officers and commanders.

The 48th Infantry Group is expected to deploy to the Golan Heights in late March, taking over duties from the 46th Infantry Group, which has been serving with UNDOF since October 2014. They will be the fourth Irish contingent to deploy with UNDOF.

Captain Dónal Gallagher said the group were undergoing two weeks of training ahead of the deployment, which he described as "deliberately tough".

"They are absolutely prepared. They are very confident. The training is tough, so they can expect anything out there. They're very much embracing that."

Irish Independent