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Irish troops to play key peace role in Lebanon mission

Irish peacekeepers, who are about to depart to join Finnish soldiers in a joint deployment in Lebanon for six months, were reminded yesterday that their role in stabilising the area had been acclaimed by the United Nations.

After a review of the 332 troops of the 106th Battalion at McKee barracks in Dublin, Defence Minister Alan Shatter told them that the dangers they faced as peacekeepers shouldn't be underestimated.

But he had been assured by military chiefs that appropriate protection and capabilities were being provided to allow them operate in the current environment in Lebanon.

He said the UN had particularly singled out the part of south Lebanon adjacent to Israel, where the Irish troops are deployed.

Last month the Irish and the Finns completed the final phase of an intensive three-week training programme in the Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow, in preparation for serving together.

It was the first time that troops from the two countries had been involved in a pre-deployment exercise.

The battalion is being led by Dubliner, Lieut Col Brian Monahan, who said that while the command of Irish soldiers deployed overseas was a great honour and the high point of any officer's service, to lead an Irish-Finn battalion was particularly special and he was looking forward to the experience.

The Irish soldiers are drawn from 24 counties and almost a third of them will be on their first tour of duty overseas.

Meanwhile, Mr Shatter confirmed that six unarmed military observers from the Defence Forces will fly out next week to join the United Nations mission in Syria.

Their role is to monitor a cessation of armed violence "in all its forms by all parties" in the strife-torn country.

Irish Independent