Enda Kenny pays touching tribute to Irish troops serving with United Nations peacekeeping forces in Lebanon
TAOISEACH Enda kenny has paid a touching tribute to the Irish troops serving with the United Nations peacekeeping forces in South Lebanon.
Mr Kenny touched down in South Lebanon ahead of his one day visit to Irish peacekeeping troops serving in the region.
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 UNFIL operation. I want you to know that and understand that."
He added: "We are very proud of what you do."
Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Campion then presented the Taoiseach with a cedar tree plaque before Mr Kenny signed a Mayo jersey for the troops.
Mr Kenny arrived in Lebanon at 11:30am local time (9:30 GMT) along with Defence Forces Chief of Staff Conor O'Boyle, Minister for State Paul Kehoe and Department of Defence Secretary General Maurice Quinn.
He was greeted from the MI8 helicopter by Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Campion before inspecting a guard of honour from the UNFIL soldiers.
He will later lay a wreath at the memorial for the 47 Irish soldiers who died serving in Lebanon since 1978.
Mr Kenny's visit is the first time a Taoiseach has visited the troops in Lebanon since Bertie Ahern visited in 1999.
Mr Kenny will be brought by armed escort to the village of Tibnin where the memorial to fallen troops is based.
At around 3pm local time (1pm GMT), at the wreath laying ceremony, the Taoiseach will be greeted by Parade Commander Capt Stephen O'Sullivan, Flag Officcer Lt Emma Harney, Sgt Paddy Poynton, Military Police Wreath Bearer Cpl Aisling Griffen and Chaplain to the Forces Fr Gerry Carroll.