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Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Enda Kenny to visit Irish Troops in Lebanon

The Taoiseach and Minister of Defence, Enda Kenny T.D., travels to Lebanon today to meet with Irish troops serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The Taoiseach is accompanied on the visit by the Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D.

During his visit the Taoiseach will meet with the Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam in Beirut where discussions will include the importance of the UNIFIL mission in South Lebanon and its contribution to the security, stability and peace in that region. The Taoiseach will reiterate the commitment of the Irish Government, through the United Nations to assist with the protection and maintenance of Lebanese sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

During the meeting with Prime Minister Salam the Taoiseach will also announce an additional €2 million in emergency funding to assist Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and the communities who are hosting them.

The Taoiseach will then travel to the Headquarters of the joint Finnish/Irish Battalion in South Lebanon. On arrival the Taoiseach will meet with UNIFIL Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier General Kumar and Finnish/Irish Battalion Chief of Staff Major Ollonqvist. The Taoiseach will receive a briefing on the mission from Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Campion, Officer Commanding the 45th Irish Infantry Group.

Speaking in advance of the visit the Taoiseach said:

“I am proud and honoured to have this opportunity to visit our Irish soldiers in Lebanon to extend my own gratitude to them, and on behalf of the Irish people, for their significant contribution to the peace and security of the region. Their commitment and loyalty to the traditions of the Defence Forces on overseas service contributes extensively to the high regard in which Ireland and Irish peacekeepers are held throughout the world. I am also pleased that I can announce further substantial assistance from Ireland to help the Lebanese government and its people with the social and economic consequences arising from the Syrian crisis”.

In the afternoon, the Taoiseach will lay a wreath at the Irish UNIFIL Memorial in Tibnin, South Lebanon dedicated to the memory of the 47 Irish personnel who died while serving with the UNIFIL mission since it was first established in 1978.

The Taoiseach will return to Ireland on Monday evening, 16th June.

ENDS

Note for editor:
Ireland has a long association with UNIFIL since its establishment in 1978. The main Defence Forces battalion was withdrawn in 2001, following 23 years of service with UNIFIL. Ireland again deployed a contingent to Lebanon in 2006, for a period of 12 months, with a Finnish Engineering company, following on from an escalation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon, when the UNIFIL Force was significantly expanded under a UN mandate. An Irish Battalion returned to the Lebanon in the summer of 2011. The current contingent, the 45th Infantry Group, was deployed to Lebanon in May 2014 and serves as part of a joint Finnish/Irish Battalion.

Of the funding announced today:

€1 million will be allocated to UNRWA to provide food assistance, emergency shelter, and emergency health and education services to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Since the start of the Syrian crisis, 53,000 Palestinians refugees have fled to Lebanon from Syria, where they were already amongst the poorest and most vulnerable population.

A further €1 million will be allocated to UNHCR, who are leading the international response to the refugee crisis. This funding will support impoverished Lebanese communities, whose meagre resources are being placed under immense strain by hosting such significant numbers of refugees. An innovative electronic food voucher system, already being implemented for some half a million Syrian refugees, will be extended to provide monthly food assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable refugee-hosting Lebanese households.

This additional support will bring Ireland’s total commitment to the Syrian crisis to over €28 million to date.



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