Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe is just back from south Lebanon where he met Irish troops serving alongside other UNIFIL peacekeepers.
'My reasons for visiting you here are very straightforward. Firstly, and most importantly I want to thank you for all you are doing to contribute to the peace and security in the region,' Minister Kehoe told the troops in a speech.
'What you do here, day in and day out, culminates in the realisation of our words of commitment to peacekeeping, and also to progress in the region. Your work and your actions fill every Irish person with pride.
'Secondly, I want to see for myself, at first hand, the situation currently facing our troops here in South Lebanon.'
The Minister said Ireland has participated in UNIFIL in various guises since its establishment in 1978. 'Ireland's participation down the years in UNIFIL has illustrated the very positive and practical difference that small countries like Ireland can make in the world's trouble spots.
'The joint participation of Ireland, Finland and Estonia in this mission demonstrates our joint contribution to international peace and security. It also demonstrates the benefits of our mutual cooperation on defence issues within the European Union through the Common Security and Defence Policy and the benefits of our participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace.
Minister Kehoe said that through a common endeavor within the EU and NATO PfP, 'we have enhanced the capacity of our forces from Ireland, Finland and Estonia, to operate together in conflict zones throughout the world.
'Here on the ground in Lebanon we can realise the benefits of those endeavors and deliver peace and security to the people of South Lebanon.'
'I am very aware of the enormous sacrifices you make here,' he told the troops, among them several from his home county.
'I realise how much you all miss your homes, your families and your loved ones. I know the dangers you face and the hardships you endure as part of your mission. I will continue to ensure that Defence Forces personnel serving on overseas missions are equipped with the essential training and equipment they require,' said Minister Kehoe.
'While your presence here is a great source of pride to Ireland, it is the difference between life and death for so many people living here.
'We may be a small nation, but we can stand tall when it comes to helping some of the most beleaguered people on this planet.'