The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, today visited her country’s troops serving in the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, and laid a wreath at the memorial dedicated to the 47 Irish soldiers who have died in the cause of peace there.
Ms. McAleese was welcomed at Camp Shamrock, the Irish contingent’s base in the town of Tibnin, by Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), who is also the head of mission.
She reviewed a guard of honour and later visited a position of Irish troops on the Blue Line, which marks the line of withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. She also toured the Orphanage in Tibnin. President McAleese had previously visited Irish troops in Lebanon in 1997 at the beginning of her term in office.
Maj-Gen. Asarta thanked the President for her country”s support of UNIFIL. “Contributions to UNIFIL by Ireland and other nations are vital for us to effectively implement our mandate and to maintain peace and security in southern Lebanon,” he said.
“Irish troops and their sacrifices in UNIFIL have always been a source of inspiration to those who served in this land. Their dedication to their mission of peace and to the people who hosted them even in the most difficult times is still etched in the memories of the people of the south,” Maj- Asarta added.
Ireland was one of the first contributors to UNIFIL, providing troops since 1978. The Irish soldiers were withdrawn in 2001 and returned in 2007-2008 before being pulled out again, although Irish officers continued to serve at UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura. Since July this year, Ireland has once again deployed a battalion of 453 soldiers.