97. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to mark the 40th anniversary of Irish troops being deployed to Lebanon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19658/18 asked on 08 May 2018)
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): This year marks significant anniversaries in relation to Ireland’s UN peacekeeping role. It will be the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s first participation in a UN peacekeeping mission and it is the 40th anniversary of the first deployment of Defence Force personnel to Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL mission.
Ireland has made a huge commitment to supporting peace and security in the Middle East region and has participated in the UNIFIL mission since its establishment in 1978. There are currently some 370 personnel deployed to the mission.
My recent visit to Lebanon in March coincided with the official UN commemorations in Naqoura to mark the 40th anniversary of the UNIFIL mission’s establishment. It was an occasion to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of UN peacekeepers who have served together with local communities for peace in South Lebanon. It was a great honour to be present while a veteran Irish Peacekeeper delivered a poignant and emotional tribute to fallen peacekeepers at the ceremony. The respect and high regard that is held internationally for the professionalism displayed by our Irish Peacekeepers was clearly evident.
Appropriate commemorative events are being planned to mark this year’s important milestones in the history of Ireland’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations by the Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána. A State ceremony will take place in Dublin Castle on Sunday 24th June 2018. Arrangements are currently being finalised and details will shortly be announced. It is intended that the ceremony will be an occasion to show our pride in those who have served in our name with the U.N. while also calling to mind those who surrendered their lives so that others might know the gift of peace.