I am pleased to see the Irish Defence Forces will be back in action after a year long abscence. This from The Irish Times.
THE DEFENCE Forces are to resume their role in international peacekeeping after a year-long absence following the approval by Cabinet yesterday of the posting of 440 personnel to the United Nations (UN) mission in Lebanon.
The decision is expected to be approved in the Dáil early in the new year with Irish personnel expected on the ground in Lebanon in the second quarter of 2011.
Irish troops were withdrawn from their last major UN deployment, to Chad, when the mission there ended in May. Since then senior Army offices have been anxious to secure a new overseas assignment.
News of the new mission has been welcomed by Minister for Defence Tony Killeen and Defence Forces chief of staff Lieut Gen Seán McCann.
Mr Killeen said it was “vitally important” that Ireland maintained the commitment to international peacekeeping that came with UN membership.
“Overseas operations contribute greatly also to the development of the Defence Forces,” he said following yesterday’s Cabinet approval.
Savings achieved to date through the withdrawal of small numbers of Irish troops serving with a variety of international missions would help offset some of the costs to the State of the much larger deployment to Lebanon.
However, Mr Killeen said most of the costs associated with participating in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) would be met by the UN.
Lieut Gen McCann said he was “delighted” with the new overseas deployment.
“We have a long and proud tradition of service in the Lebanon and we look forward to using our skills and our experience to make a substantial contribution to the peace and security of the region.”
The Unifil multinational force currently numbers 12,000 personnel from some 31 nations.
The Defence Forces’ participation in the mission is subject to the so-called triple lock mechanism.
This means Irish troops can only be deployed on a foreign mission if it is sanctioned by the UN and approved by the Cabinet before being further approved by a Dáil vote.
Subject to Dáil approval, the Irish troops’ area of operation will be a 140sq km block extending from Tibnin in southern Lebanon to the blue line along the border with Israel.
The Irish troops will conduct extensive mobile patrols in armed military vehicles and will monitor activity along the Lebanon-Israel border.
They will be deployed alongside Finnish troops, whom they worked closely with in Chad.
The UN resolution passed in 2006 paving the way for the Unifil mission provides for the protection of civilians and co-operation with the Lebanese armed forces.
Irish troops were first deployed to Lebanon in 1958 when a group of officers went as observers. The first Irish battalion deployed in 1978, with Irish battalions remaining until 2001.
The Irish returned briefly following a fresh outbreak in fighting between the Israeli forces and Hizbullah in the summer of 2006. A total of 47 Irish troops have lost their lives while serving there.