Ireland has a long association with UNIFIL since its establishment in 1978. The main Defence Forces battalion was withdrawn in 2001, following 23 years of service with UNIFIL. Ireland again deployed a contingent to Lebanon in 2006, for a period of 12 months, with a Finnish Engineering company, following on from an escalation of hostilities, when the UNIFIL Force was significantly expanded under a UN mandate.
An Irish Battalion returned to the Lebanon in the summer of 2011. The 51st Infantry Group replaces the 49th Infantry Group which deployed to Lebanon in May 2015.
On Monday 2nd November, the Minister for State at the Department of Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D., reviewed the members of the 51st Infantry Group who will leave later this month for service with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Speaking during the Review, the Minister said “Today, more than ever, UNIFIL is recognised as a force for the stability of the entire region. In spite of so much surrounding conflict, instability and uncertainty, the UNIFIL mission has successfully managed to maintain the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel and implement its mandate.”
Addressing the troops directly, Minister Kehoe applauded the diligence of the preparation of the 51st Infantry Group for it’s deployment to UNIFIL under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Brendan McGuiness. The Minister expects the personnel of the 51st Infantry Group to maintain the outstanding reputation of the Irish Defence Forces as committed, conscientious, professional and humane peacekeepers.
The Minister also paid tribute to the families of the 51st Infantry group. He Said “I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all of your families and friends, many of whom are here today, for the important but unsung role they play in Ireland’s contribution to peacekeeping missions abroad. Their encouragement, support and loyalty is vital in enabling you to serve overseas and thereby help to protect and save the lives of countless numbers of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.”