Kildare South Fine Gael TD and Minister Martin Heydon has returned from a visit to Irish Defence Force troops of 119th infantry battalion serving on the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission in South Lebanon.
“It was a great honour for me to represent the Government on this trip to our troops to mark St. Patrick’s Day, while also having meetings in Beirut with representatives of UNICEF, UNHCR and our honorary consulate’s to Syria and Lebanon.
“Staying in camp, participating in the medal parade, I also visited our personnel on outpost NP652 observing the contentious blue line with Israel.
“With 344 serving Irish personal as part of the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon, our Defence Forces are a central part of the mission. It was very evident in my meeting with force commander Major General Sáenz the regard with which our troops led by Lieutenant Colonel Fiachra Keyes (who originally hails from Kilcullen) are held in.
“Now more than ever, Irish peacekeeping troops around the world do us proud, continuing the long tradition of unbroken peace keeping service by Óglaigh na hÉireann on UN missions for over 60 years.
“While in Lebanon, I also had the honour of attending the Irish memorial in Tibnin and laid a wreath in memory of the 47 fallen Irish soldiers who lost their lives on UN peacekeeping duties over the last 60 years.
“Enroute to Lebanon, I also visited Cyprus where our Gardaí participate in the UNPOL peacekeeping mission. I discussed Ireland’s ongoing commitment to the UN mandate in Cyprus with their senior official there Colin Stewart and also in my meeting with Cypriot Minister for Foreign Affairs Ioanais Kasoulides..
“I conveyed our appreciation for Cyprus’s unflinching support for Ireland’s position on the Brexit protocol, proving the strength of strong bilateral relations with the EU’s smaller nations. I also participated in a number of St. Patrick’s Day linked events organised by the Irish Embassy in Nicosia to promote trade in Irish food & drink products as well as meeting the UN committee on missing persons,” concluded Minister Heydon.