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440 Irish troops prepare for peacekeeping deployment to Lebanon

Irish soldiers were first sent to Lebanon in 1978. Last month, Minister Shatter appointed Frank Callanan SC to review information surrounding the deaths of three Irish soldiers there in 1989.

Irish Defence Forces undergoing training today at the Glen of Imaal in Co Wicklow.
Irish Defence Forces undergoing training today at the Glen of Imaal in Co Wicklow.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

HUNDREDS OF IRISH TROOPS are preparing for their deployment to Lebanon as part of the UN’s peacekeeping mission there, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The Dail approved the deployment of 440 troops to UNIFIL on 21 April, which Minister for Defence Alan Shatter said completed the ‘Triple Lock’ mechanism under which the UN, government and Dáil must grant approval before Irish troops are given the go-ahead to deploy.

An advance Defence Forces team will travel to southern Lebanon on 23 May before the main bulk of the troops are sent over on 23 and 26 June.

Today, the soldiers have been participating in the final phase of their training sessions to simulate situations they may face once deployed. The exercises include simulated explosions, helicopters and armoured personnel carriers.

Minister Shatter has described Ireland’s participation in the UN’s Lebanon operations as “an illustration of the very positive and practical difference that small countries like Ireland can make in the world’s trouble spots by supporting the United Nations”.

“It is vitally important for Ireland to maintain a level of commitment to international peacekeeping operations and the obligations it has assumed through its membership of the UN,” he said.

Review of Lebanon deaths

Irish peacekeepers were first deployed to Lebanon in 1978. Last month, Shatter appointed senior counsel Frank Callanan to review issues regarding the deaths of Irish soldiers Cpl Fintan Heneghan, Pte Mannix Armstrong and Pte Thomas Walsh while serving with UNIFIL in 1989.

In a statement, Shatter said new information had come to light since the Department of Defence conducted its review of the deaths in 2003 and decided not to pursue a further investigation. Callanan is expected to present a report to the minister within three to four months.

Forty-eight Irish soldiers have died while on duty in Lebanon.

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