Wexford troops recognised for peacekeeping role
Defence Force troops from Co Wexford have been recognised for their role in maintaining peace as part of the UN peacekeeping presence in South Lebanon.
Six Wexford soldiers were acknowledged by Minister Paul Kehoe during his visit last week to the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) camp in Lebanon.
The model county troops include: Private Liam Sinnott (Bannow), Private Aidan Byrne (Kiltealy), Private Conor Fitzhenry (Ballindaggin), Corporal Shelley Kehoe (The Ballagh), Private Ryan Mann (Wexford) and Trooper Gary Turner (Enniscorthy).
Minister Kehoe was accompanied on his visit by Irish Ambassador to Egypt and Lebanon Sean O'Regan and the Force Commander of the UNIFIL mission, Major General Stefano Del Col, from Italy.
The Irish delegation also included the Secretary General at the Department of Defence, Maurice Quinn, and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Major General Kieran Brennan.
The UNIFIL Mission was established in 1978 following the invasion of Lebanon by Israel and since 2000, with the withdrawal of Israeli Forces, UNIFIL has continued to operate in southern Lebanon for the restoration of security and peace in the region.
As part of their work, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Caimin Keogh, the Wexford soldiers with UNIFIL patrol, monitor and report on developments in the area.
They also correct violations of the blue line with Israel to prevent escalation of incidents.
In November 2018, Ireland decided to increase its contribution to UNIFIL by 106 troops for a period of 12 months and the six Wexford soldiers - who are with the 113th Infantry Battalion - are now part of an overall Irish force of 458 personnel currently attached to UNIFIL.
However, discussions are ongoing to introduce Poland and Hungary as new partners from November this year.
In his address to the Irish troops Minister Kehoe said there is an affinity between the UNIFIL soldiers and the local community in South Lebanon.
Referring to local community representatives in attendance he said: 'Your support for the Irish Defence Forces over the last 40 years cannot be understated. You not only allowed us in, but you welcomed us with open arms.'
He acknowledged the sacrifices made by the soldiers during their time away from family and friends and commented: 'I understand how much you all miss your homes, your families, and your loved ones, and I know the dangers you face and the hardships you endure as part of your mission.'
'We are proud of you and the work you do,' he added.
Minister Kehoe also paid tribute to Defence Force personnel who lost their lives during their peacekeeping efforts over the last 40 years: 'Over those four decades, many of our soldiers have been wounded or have tragically lost their lives.
'They did so while trying to secure one goal: that the communities surrounding us in South Lebanon could experience the gift of peace.'