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Minister Flanagan visits Irish peacekeepers in Lebanon

Minister Flanagan visits Irish peacekeepers in Lebanon

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, today visited Irish troops attached to the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in Lebanon.

Minister Flanagan met with the UNIFIL Force Commander, Major General Luciano Portolano, and with the Commander and members of the joint Finnish-Irish Battalion stationed near Bint Jubayl.

Minister Flanagan was briefed on the ongoing work of UNIFIL, the current security situation and the impact of the Syrian conflict on the context of their work.

Speaking in Lebanon, the Minister said,

“It was an honour today to meet with the Irish peacekeepers serving with UNIFIL.

“While they wear the blue helmets of the United Nations, they wear the Irish flag proudly on their uniforms and honour that flag in their daily work.

“Laying a wreath today at the memorial to the Irish peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving with UNIFIL served as a reminder at once of the importance of their work, and the dangers that go with it. The death of a Spanish peacekeeper at the end of January has brought that danger home forcefully to all of us.

“I want to acknowledge too that it is not just the soldiers themselves who live with this danger, but their spouses, children, parents and friends at home in Ireland.”

Since the first deployment to UNOGIL in 1958, Ireland has maintained a strong presence at the UN’s peacekeeping missions in the Middle East.

Ireland currently contributes to each of the three UN missions there (UNIFIL, UNDOF and UNTSO); 88% of Defence Force personnel serving overseas are based at these missions. Ireland has contributed personnel to UNIFIL, in various configurations, since its establishment in 1978. In 2001 a memorial to the 47 Irish peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving with UNIFIL was erected at Tibnin.

The current deployment to UNIFIL began in June 2011 when the 104th Infantry Battalion was dispatched to South Lebanon. The deployment was undertaken with the intention of forming a joint Irish-Finnish Battalion, which was established under Irish command in June 2012. In November 2013 Finland assumed command of the Joint Battalion, which is now known as FINNIRISHBATT.

Press Office
15 February 2015