Fine Gael TD for Kildare South, Martin Heydon, has welcomed the confirmation from Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney TD, this evening (Tuesday) that he has advised the Government that the 46th Infantry Group will commence deployment to the Golan Heights next month and therefore that the Defence Forces will continue to participate in this important mission.

“The continuation of Irish troops in Golan Heights is seen as vital to the success of the peacekeeping mission there. Given our troops’ track record in the region and their reputation as high quality peacekeeping forces, the UN will no doubt welcome Minister Coveney’s announcement.

“This was not a decision taken lightly by Minister Coveney, his Department or the Defence Forces. Much work has taken place behind the scenes in recent weeks to ensure that all necessary protections and safeguards are in place for our troops. Prior to the initial deployment of troops to the UN Observer Force, a full threat assessment and mission reconnaissance was carried out by the Defence Forces.

“The further escalation of conflict in Syria in recent months has caused further reviews. Given the evolving security situation, the mission has continued to review its operation to ensure that any risks are minimised. Minister Coveney has confirmed that in the past fortnight, there has been a fundamental realignment of the UNDOF mission reflecting the deteriorating situation on the ground.

“The Security Council recognised that it was important to maintain UNDOF’s force strength to the level necessary to carry out its important mandate, and to retain the quick reaction and counter-IED capabilities which are provided by Ireland and which the Council noted have proved indispensable in the face of the changing security environment. This proves the overall mission could not have continued without Irish involvement which the UN has confirmed.”