The Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Conor O’ Boyle awarded the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Service Medal to 150 Irish and Finnish Military Peacekeepers in United Nations Post 2-45, near the town of At Tiri in Lebanon today 19th September 2013.
General O’Boyle was completing a two day visit to the 108 IRISHFINN Battalion who deployed to Lebanon in May. This is General O’Boyle’s first visit to a deployed Irish Unit since his appointment as Chief of Staff in August. There are three hundred and thirty two (332) Irish Peacekeepers serving with one hundred and seventy five (175) Finnish Soldiers as part of the joint battalion which is currently led by an Irish Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Tony Mc Kenna from Louth.
During his visit General O’Boyle met the UNIFIL Force Commander Major General Paolo Serra, received extensive briefings from the IRISHFINN Battalion on the current operational picture and met members of the Battalion informally to discuss their deployment. He also completed a familiarisation patrol of the area of operations including visits to UN Posts 6-52 and 6-50 which are manned by Irish and Finnish Personnel respectively and are strategically deployed metres from the “Blue Line” which separates Lebanon and Israel.
At 8am, prior to today’s Medal Parade, General O’Boyle, in a poignant ceremony, laid a wreath in memory of the forty seven (47) Irish Soldiers who died on Peacekeeping Duties in Lebanon at the Memorial in Tibnin, a town which used to house the Headquarters (Camp Shamrock) of successive Irish Battalions.
Commenting prior to his departure from UN Post 2-45 this afternoon, General O’Boyle said
“I have been particularly impressed by the professionalism and dedication to duty of these men and women of the Irish Defence Forces serving here in Lebanon with the United Nations, side by side with their Finnish Comrades. Their service in South Lebanon epitomises the ethos of Óglaigh na hÉireann, as they place themselves at the centre of UNIFIL’s efforts to bring security and calm to this area of the Middle East. Their work here is a source of great pride to me as Chief of Staff.”
Today’s Medal Parade was also attended by the UNIFIL Force Commander Major General Paolo Serra, Brigadier General Pat Phelan Deputy Force Commander from Ireland and his Excellency Kari Kahiluoto, Finnish Ambassador to Lebanon.