Today, the first rotation of troops from the 115 Infantry Battalion returned from service with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
As part of its response to the global Covid pandemic, on 5 April, 2020 the United Nations Secretary General directed the suspension of all rotations and leave for military personnel serving in UN missions until 30 June. The rotation of troops to and from UNIFIL, which was to take place mid-May, was delayed as a result of the UN suspension.
The UN direction impacted over 100,000 UN uniformed personnel from over 120 countries serving world-wide, including Ireland and Defence Forces personnel serving with UN missions. The suspension was based on the protection of local communities as well as that of the peacekeepers during the Covid pandemic.
On foot of the subsequent efforts of the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and the Department Foreign Affairs and Trade, rotations to UNDOF, MINUSMA, KFOR and EUTM Mali have been successfully concluded.
The troops were welcomed home by the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe TD. Minister Kehoe said “I know this homecoming will be an emotional occasion for both personnel and their families. Due to the impact of COVID 19, this deployment was extended beyond the scheduled 6-month term which has been particularly challenging for Defence Forces personnel and their loved ones waiting at home for their safe return.”
“In line with ongoing rigorous quarantine measures currently being adopted by the UN, the second rotation of troops has been rescheduled to take place during 1st/2nd July. I look forward to their safe return.”
UNIFIL is our largest mission and involves the rotation of a significant number of personnel in two stages and is a complex operation. In accordance with agreed arrangements, the UN is responsible for making the transport arrangements for the next rotation of troops which was to take place mid-May but has been delayed as a result of the UN suspension. Ireland successfully secured an exemption and was granted approval for the rotation of the full contingent in June, during the UN moratorium. The UN initially confirmed that the first UNIFIL rotation would take place on 21 June with the second rotation scheduled for 29 June. However, in order to comply with current stringent UN quarantine requirements, the UN recently rescheduled the second rotation and it is now due to take place during 1 – 2 July.