A CROWD of about 200 people gathered in the Castle Park yesterday (October 8) to wave off the 105th infantry battalion before they departed to take part in the UN peace keeping mission in Lebanon.
The Minister of State for Defence, Paul Kehoe, reviewed the troops in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle. Deputy Kehoe paid tribute to the contribution to the families who support the troops while they are overseas. “I can only imagine the stress and strain that overseas missions put on families”, he said. The minister’s own niece, Private Shelly Kehoe was amongst the troops who he reviewed in Kilkenny Castle. “The Military authorities have assured me that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel Serving in Lebanon,” added Minister Kehoe.
Irish defences forces have a long and proud tradition of serving on UN peace keeping missions abroad. Ireland have been involved in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon since its establishment in 1978. The main body of the force was withdrawn in 2001 following 23 years service in the area. After an escalation in hostilities in 2006 Irish peace keepers were again deployed in the area. In June of this year the 104 battalion returned to Lebanon with a significantly larger role mandated by the UN.
“For a small nation Ireland can stand tall when it comes to helping the most beleaguered nations in the world,” said Minister Keogh.
Amongst the crowd were the family of troops who stood in the rain for over an hour to watch the minister review the troops. There were many mothers telling their young children to “look at daddy” and some fathers telling their children to “look at mummy on parade.” Amongst the 438 personnel who will deploy to the Lebanon are 27 female soldiers.
The troops were reviewed by both the Minister of State for Defence and the Mayor of Kilkenny David Fitzgerald, before making a final march past the tent where a number of dignitaries including Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, local councillors and veterans from the Irish Army were gathered.
To read more about the troops departing to the Lebanon see the front of People 2.