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Taoiseach and Defence Minister Kehoe visiting United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)

 

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar is on his first visit to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today to meet Irish troops deployed overseas over the Christmas period. The Taoiseach is accompanied by the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, and Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellet.
In addition to meeting serving personnel, the Taoiseach will see first-hand Ireland’s contribution and the challenges faced by the Mission. He will witness joint operations exercises with the Lebanese and survey the UNIFIL-monitored Blue Zone between Lebanon and Israel. Later in the day, the Taoiseach will lay a wreath at the memorial to Irish personnel who died on service in Lebanon.


Ireland has participated in the UNIFIL mission since its start in 1978 and it is Ireland’s largest overseas deployment. Ireland’s contribution to UNIFIL currently stands at some 377 personnel, principally comprising the 111th Infantry Battalion.
This is an opportunity for the Taoiseach to personally thank members of the Permanent Defence Force for their work in support of peace and security for the people of Southern Lebanon and for their commitment to this important peacekeeping mission.


An Taoiseach said: “Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of UNIFIL, the United Nations Mission in Lebanon. The Irish Defence Forces have been there from the start. As a people, we are enormously proud of the work that our Defence Forces do in keeping the peace, often in dangerous circumstances.
“As a small neutral country with no history of colonialism, and as a country at the heart of Europe, Ireland plays a leadership role when it comes to peacekeeping around the world. We will continue to do so.
“At this time of year, it’s tough to be away from home, parents away from their kids, partners separated. I am here to acknowledge them and thank them on behalf of the Irish people.”
This Christmas some 580 troops will be serving overseas in locations such as Mali, various locations in the Middle East, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Western Sahara and the Congo.