Simon Coveney T.D., Minister for Defence and Minister for Foreign Affairs, is today leaving for Lebanon to visit Irish troops serving with the United Nations Interim Force Lebanon (UNIFIL). The Minister will be accompanied by the Secretary General of the Department of Defence, Jacqui McCrum, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, Defence Policy Director, Ciaran Murphy and Political Director at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Sonja Hyland.
During his visit, the Minister will visit UNIFIL headquarters in Naquora, where he will meet with the senior UN mission leadership of UNIFIL, along with Defence Forces personnel serving at UNIFIL Headquarters and personnel serving as part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO).
He will then travel to the Defence Forces base camp and observation posts on the Blue Line, meeting members of the 118TH Infantry Battalion of the Defence Forces currently deployed in UNIFIL along with members of the Polish, Hungarian and Maltese armed forces which make up the multinational IrishPolBatt contingent in UNIFIL.
The Minister stated:
This dynamic partnering with EU Partners is a key policy objective as it enhances the EU contribution to UN missions, supports and enhances Defence Forces interoperability and expands our national capacity to contribute to international crisis management operations. This commitment to partner engagement is further reflected in our embedded SOF capability with Germany in Mali in the UN MINUSMA Mission.
Alongside visiting our troops, the Minister’s itinerary includes meetings with political leaders, including the Minister for Defence and acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Chief of Staff of the Lebanese Armed Forces and with other political and civil society leaders in Lebanon.
Minister Coveney commented on the trip saying:
I want to personally tell Defence Forces personnel deployed in Lebanon how much the Government appreciates the work they are doing there. Ireland’s substantial contribution to international peace support operations depends on the ongoing commitment of Defence Forces personnel to serve overseas in often difficult and dangerous circumstances and I think it is very important to acknowledge this effort.”
The Minister went on to say:
Ireland has strong political and historical ties to Lebanon, arising from our long-standing involvement in UNIFIL since the establishment of the mission over 40 years ago. We also share common values and histories. My Government remains strongly committed to the maintenance of peace and security in southern Lebanon.
Ireland has a long and well-regarded history of participation in overseas missions mandated by the United Nations since 1958. In that period, Defence Forces personnel have completed approximately 70,000 individual tours of duty in overseas missions. As of 8 June 2021, Ireland is contributing 564 personnel to various missions throughout the world.