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Soldiers stuck in Lebanon can return next month



Paul Kehoe. Photo: Tom Burke

Paul Kehoe. Photo: Tom Burke

Paul Kehoe. Photo: Tom Burke

IRISH troops who have been delayed in returning from peace-keeping duties in Lebanon due to the coronavirus crisis will be home by the end of June.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe made the announcement after the United Nations granted a partial exemption on its order that no troops leave any mission until July 1 at the earliest. The Irish troops had been due home this month but they will now return on June 21 and 29.

Mr Kehoe yesterday acknowledged the impact of the delays on members of the Defence Forces and their families, and said the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs had extensive engagement with the UN and the Unifil mission headquarters to secure the earliest possible rotations.

After their arrival home from Lebanon, members of the 115th Irish battalion will be required to spend 14 days in self-isolation, in accordance with HSE guidelines. The 116th battalion, taking over the Irish area of responsibility in south Lebanon, will depart after they have completed a 14-day quarantine period in Coolmoney Camp and Gormanston Camp, in compliance with the UN directive.

Separately, Ireland is to resume its involvement in EU naval activities in the Mediterranean. But the number of Naval Service personnel taking part in the new operation, codenamed Irini, represents a major reduction in Ireland's role and there are no plans at the moment for the deployment of an Irish naval vessel to the area. Irini has been established with the core task of contributing to the prevention of arms trafficking within the area it will patrol in the Mediterranean.

It is a follow-up to Operation Sophia which focused largely on migrant rescues but it was officially closed last March following a series of disagreements between countries over the redistribution of migrants rescued at sea.

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