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Speech by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence,
Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D.,
at UNP 2-45
Sunday 10 March 2013

Assistant Secretary General Murphy, Chief of Staff, Ladies and Gentlemen, Men and Women of the 107th Infantry Battalion.

Firstly, may I thank Lieutenant Colonel Dignam and all the Irish personnel here for the extremely warm welcome afforded to all of us on this visit.

I am truly delighted to be here at the headquarters of the Irish Finnish Battalion close to our national day.

My reasons for visiting you here are very straightforward. Firstly, and most importantly I want to thank you for all you are doing here to contribute to the peace and security of the region.
What you do here, day in and day out, culminates in the realisation of our words of commitment to peacekeeping and to progress in the region. Your work and your actions fill every Irish person with pride.

Secondly, I wanted to see for myself, at first hand, what the current situation facing our troops is like here in Lebanon. My visit has been very enlightening so far.

Ireland has participated in UNIFIL in various guises since its establishment in 1978. Ireland’s participation down the years in UNIFIL has illustrated the very positive and practical difference that small countries like Ireland can make in the world's trouble spots. Indeed this is very true of our Finnish partners. The joint participation of Ireland and Finland in this mission further demonstrates our joint contribution to international peace and security. We are all aware that the world of peacekeeping has changed dramatically over the past years. I cannot over emphasise the important role partners, such as Finland, play in assisting us. In the absence of partners, we would be significantly inhibited in the range and nature of operations we could undertake in support of the United Nations.

I am very mindful of the great sacrifices you make here. I understand how much you all miss your homes, your families and your loved ones. I know the dangers you face and the hardships you endure as part of your mission. However, I will continue to ensure, that Defence Forces personnel serving on all overseas missions are equipped with the essential training and equipment they require.

Both the Chief of Staff and myself are committted to doing whatever we can to make your time here as safe and agreeable as we possibly can; so that you can concentrate fully on the work you have come here to do.

Your work and your actions here are a reflection on Ireland. I say this, not to put any greater pressure on you, but to let you know how deeply we value what you do and how enormously proud we are of you.

While your presence here is a great source of pride to Ireland, it is the difference between life and death for so many hundreds and thousands of people living here. We may be a small nation, but we can stand tall when it comes to helping some of the most beleaguered people on this planet.

It is true to say that a key facet of our approach to international peace support operations is the engagement of the Defence Forces personnel at all levels with the local communities. Liaison with the local population and the provision of support and humanitarian assistance is one of the hallmarks of the Defence Forces approach to involvement in peace support operations. This is, indeed, very true here in Lebanon where you are assisting with local projects. The help given to the local communities by Irish troops is something of which you can be very proud. The local population greatly appreciate this aid and have nothing but the height of praise for Irish soldiers.

As has been the case for some time these projects are receiving support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through Irish Aid.

I am glad to have had this opportunity to express my own personal appreciation and that of the Government for the incredible work you are doing here.

You are the new generation of Irish Ambassadors. I salute your courage, your humanity and your patriotism.

I want to wish you all well and continued safety during the rest of your tour of duty here and a safe return to your families in Ireland.

ENDS


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