TÁNAISTE Micheál Martin has met with Irish peacekeeping soldiers preparing to depart for a six-month deployment in Lebanon.
Mr Martin, who is Ireland’s Minister for Defence, joined Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy to review the men and women of the 123rd Infantry Battalion ahead of their mission as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
He said it was “an honour to review the 123rd Infantry Battalion going to serve with UNIFIL in Lebanon”.
“You follow in the proud traditions of the thousands of men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann who have gone before you,” he added.
“You will be in our thoughts throughout your tour of duty.”
Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Mac Eoin, the 123rd Infantry Battalion have been in training for the past two months and are scheduled to deploy to Lebanon this month.
There are 343 soldiers being deployed, 334 who are Irish and nine who are Maltese. Twenty of them are female.
For 86 soldiers it will mark their first overseas peacekeeping mission.
They are taking over from colleagues in the 122nd Infantry Battalion of the Irish Defence Forces.
Minister Martin’s review was a ceremonial occasion, which consisted of a parade, a blessing of the battalion unit flag, a ministerial inspection and an address at Kilkenny Castle.
During his speech, the Minister acknowledged the concerns the soldiers’ family members may have due to the current situation in the Middle East.
“I want to reassure you that the troops standing before us today – your sons, daughters, partners, dads and mums – are well trained, well prepared and well equipped for this deployment,” he said.
“There is significant experience in these ranks, not least in the battalion leadership.
“That leadership and experience will be invaluable over the next six months.”