Dáil confirms two weeks delay in Kilkenny soldiers returning home from UN duty

Sian Moloughney

Reporter:

Sian Moloughney

A recent passing out parade at James Stephens Barrack in Kilkenny

A recent passing out parade at James Stephens Barrack in Kilkenny

It has been confirmed in the Dáil that soldiers from Kilkenny serving in the Golan Heights on the Syria/Israeli border will not return home for an additional two weeks.

The Kilkenny People reported this morning that the Kilkenny soldiers had been left stranded in world trouble spot.

Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe T.D., has now made a statement in the Dail regarding the delay in the rotation of Defence Force Personnel serving in UNDOF.

Members of the 57th Infantry Group have been trying for three days to get home from the Golan Heights following a six month deployment there as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF).

Families in the city and county are distraught after a plane meant to carry troops home from Syria never left the ground and many had booked holidays to welcome their loved ones home at Dublin airport but their plans are now in ruins.

The minister said the delay was caused by "diplomatic clearances" and has committed to paying the soldiers a €1,000 ex gratia payment in recognition of the disruption caused to them and their families.

"I want to advise the House that there has been a delay in the rotation of Defence Force Personnel serving in UNDOF, this will result in a delay for 119 personnel returning home.

"Following receipt of all the required diplomatic clearances for the flight to rotate the Defence Forces contingent in UNDOF on Tuesday the 2nd of October, an issue arose unexpectedly in relation to the clearances on Monday morning.  Every effort was made to address this by the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs, but the issue could not be resolved within the time necessary to allow the rotation to be completed on schedule on Tuesday.  As soon as this was known, the personnel and their families were contacted and advised of the issue and the postponement of the rotation.

"Personally, I have been in direct contact with our honourary consul in Beirut, Georges Siam, in order to try to resolve the situation.

"Rotation of contingents is coordinated across the UNDOF mission so as to maintain appropriate forces on the ground in support of the mission.  In addition, rotation flights through Beirut are confined to certain days and times.  As such, there are limited windows during which we can rotate the Defence Forces contingent. Given these constraints, the timelines necessary to secure diplomatic clearances, and the primacy of ensuring a safe and secure transit through Syria and Lebanon for the rotating contingents, it is now planned to rotate the contingents on Monday the 15th of October, 2018.  It is expected that those returning to their families will arrive back on Tuesday 16th October.
 

"I am acutely aware of the impact that this unfortunate delay of the UNDOF rotation is having on both the 119 personnel due to return home and those departing to service with UNDOF as well as their families.

"Every effort possible is being made right across the Defence Organisation, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and our embassy in Cairo to address this issue and ensure the safe and secure return of our personnel as soon as possible.

 "I can assure Deputies that allowances due to personnel while they are serving overseas will continue to be paid and that their 30 day post deployment leave entitlements will only commence from when they return.
 

"Additionally, I have taken a decision that the personnel delayed in returning home are to receive a €1,000 ex gratia payment in recognition of the disruption caused to them and their families."