Kenny's tribute to fallen Irish troops in Lebanon
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny stood silently and stared solemnly at the memorial for fallen Irish soldiers who served in Lebanon as their names were called out during an emotional ceremony yesterday.
With mid-afternoon temperatures hitting 35C in the village of Tibnin, Mr Kenny slowly placed a wreath on the memorial for the 47 brave Irish troops who have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1978.
After the final name was listed, Captain Glen Harmon finished the honour role by saying: "May they enjoy eternal happiness in the company of all the saints."
Army Chaplin Fr Gerry Carroll then read a prayer he composed specifically for the poignant day.
A minute's silence was followed by a lament on the bagpipes by Private Enda McGrath before a full military display from the Irish soldiers of Camp 2.45 serving in South Lebanon.
Lieutenant Emma Harney then raised the Irish flag from half to full mast to mark the end of the ceremony.
Speaking to the Irish Independent after the event, Mr Kenny said his emotions were a mix of sadness and nostalgia.
"When the minute's silence is called for and the people stand with heads bowed, you can actually hear the silence in the cypress trees, it is an evocative moment in many ways," he said.
"You hear the roll call of names and the years in which they lost their lives. So it is a case of nostalgia, with a sense of loss, but also I have to say with a sense of pride of the competence of what they did in their chosen career, serving with the Irish Defence Forces," he added.
Mr Kenny's visit is the first time a Taoiseach has visited the troops in Lebanon since Bertie Ahern in 1999.
When he first arrived yesterday morning, Mr Kenny paid tribute to the Irish troops serving with the United Nations peacekeeping forces in South Lebanon. He told the soldiers the country has great faith in their ability and was proud of the work they do in the volatile region.
"On behalf of the people of our country and your families I came out here today to pay respect to you for what you do and the challenges and the sensitivities you must put up with in this region here in south Lebanon," he said.
"We have great faith in your ability to understand these things and do your job as professional soldiers, as professional members of the Defence Forces of our country as part of the UNIFIL operation. I want you to know that and understand that. We are very proud of what you do."
Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Campion then presented Mr Kenny with a cedar tree plaque before Mr Kenny signed a Mayo jersey for the troops.