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Heroes' welcome for peacekeepers as UN tour ends

IT was a moment worth the wait.

Amid the general mayhem of Dublin airport, Captain Brian McCrossan cradled his tiny baby daughter in his arms for the first time as he returned home from a UN peacekeeping mission in South Lebanon.

Gazing into her eyes and marvelling at six-week-old Saoirse, Cpt McCrossan smiled as he admitted the feeling was "unusual".

"I'm looking forward to getting to know her better," said the new dad from Athlone, Co Westmeath – whose father Sgt Pat McCrossan also served in the Lebanon and who was kidnapped and held hostage for over seven hours on one occasion during the 1970s.

Dublin airport was buzzing with excitement as families waited in Arrivals.

Summer Greene (2) from Clonee, Co Meath, wore a camouflage dress and matching hat – made out of an old army shirt by a friend of her mother, Lindy – as she waited on dad Neil Greene returning from a six-month tour of duty with the 107th battalion.

Among the returnees was Cork goalkeeper Capt Alan Quirke (36), who is looking forward to getting back into another Championship season.

But the mission had been a poignant one for Private Owen McLoughlin, son of Corporal Dermot McLoughlin from Sligo – who died in an ambush in the region in 1987.

On his first tour of the Lebanon, Pte McLoughlin said that he was glad to be able to visit the scene where his father lost his life when Israeli shots were fired from a tank through the windows of the Company house.

"It was nice to be able to go and see it – a lot of people wouldn't have the opportunity to do that," Pte McLoughlin said, who was just a toddler when his father died 26 years ago.

The 107th Infantry battalion travelled to south Lebanon on November 2 last, guarding the border with Israel. Troops said the area remains untouched by the Syrian conflict, though some refugees have passed through.

The battalion consists of 332 Irish and 176 Finnish personnel under the Irish command of Lt Col David Dignam, who remained to hand over command to the 108th battalion. He returns home next week.

Irish Independent