Irish troops take charge of UN military base in Lebanon
Irish soldiers have taken responsibility for an entire battalion in one of the most volatile areas of Lebanon as tensions rise in the region.
An additional 106 soldiers were sent to the Middle East country in the last month as part of a ramped-up effort to maintain peace in the area.
Defence Forces personnel are generally supported on UN peace-keeping missions by soldiers from other nations.
However, Defence Minister Paul Kehoe took the decision to deploy additional troops to Lebanon after Estonian and Finnish soldiers pulled out of the mission, citing domestic security concerns.
There are now 462 Irish soldiers serving in what is called the 'Irish Batt' as part of the Unifil mission in Lebanon.
It is understood talks are now at an advanced stage, with Poland to serve alongside the Irish from November 2019.
Poland has a long tradition of participating in international crisis management missions and has served alongside Irish Defence Force personnel in both EU and UN-led missions over the years. It's understood that the proposal will also see a number of Hungarian personnel deployed.
The Irish Battalion is based in Sector West of Unifil's area of operations, in the vicinity of At Tiri, and with posts on the 'Blue Line', which separates Lebanon and Israel.
Minister Kehoe said: "In the year Ireland celebrates its 60th anniversary of UN Peacekeeping, this was an important decision to take.
"The presence of the Unifil mission is vital to maintaining peace and security, providing support to the Lebanese government and stability in the wider region.
"Of course, Ireland's peacekeeping story first began in Lebanon in 1958 when 50 members of the Permanent Defence Force were deployed as military observers with the UN Observer Group in Lebanon.
"Now, as 2018 draws to a close, we are stepping up to the mark and living up to our reputation as a peace-keeping nation."