The return of 120 Irish troops from Syria delayed less than 24 hours before they were due home

The return of 120 Irish troops from Syria delayed less than 24 hours before they were due home

Elaine Keogh

Some 130 members of the Defence Forces are, for the second time in a year, unable to return home from Syria to their families tomorrow.

The troops are part of the UNDOF mission in the Golan Heights and were scheduled to fly out of Beirut and land in Dublin Airport at 11am Thursday morning.

In the last hour it has emerged that they will not be home as scheduled.

There are 130 troops effected and the flight was due home at 9.40am.

They have finished a six month tour of duty and the soldiers to replace them have already arrived.

One wife, who did not want her name used, said: “Myself and the children are devastated, we have gone through a long arduous six months without him.

“The kids were so excited about seeing their Dad in the morning and having to break the news to them was heartbreaking.”

“I know we are in a lucky enough position living [relatively] close to the airport, but some families will have travelled from around the country today to be in Dublin to collect their husbands/dads/sons in the morning.

“I’m also aware of a number of troops who have travel plans this weekend with their families. This is just another example today of the appalling treatment of our troops,” she added.

PDFORRA confirmed they have just been made aware of an issue.

Ger Guinan said: “We are absolutely gutted for their families and we are deeply disappointed this has arisen especially as it occurred last October too.”

There was an issue last year with the delayed return, also from Syria, of soldiers.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said, "The United Nations is responsible for organising the rotation flights to transport the current UNDOF contingent back to Ireland."

"We have been advised by the UN that the Lebanese Authorities have not yet granted approval of the landing clearance in Beirut for the aircraft scheduled to transport the 59th Infantry Group."

"Defence Forces personnel on the ground are liaising with the local United Nations personnel, who are doing their utmost to resolve this situation."

"At the request of Minister Paul Kehoe, Ireland's Permanent Mission in New York is engaging directly at the highest levels with the UN in New York, with a view to resolving the situation as quickly as possible."

"Defence Forces personnel remain at their base at Camp Faoar in Syria pending resolution of the situation."

"Families have been informed of this delay by designated Family Liaison Officers, and further updates will continue to be provided as they become available," the spokesperson added.