Irish Defense Minister, Paul Kehoe, participated Sunday in a ceremony honoring the 113th Infantry Regiment of the Irish UNIFIL Contingent based in the Southern town of al-Tairi, in Bint Jbeil district.
Attending the honorary ceremony were Irish Army Deputy Chief-of-Staff Kieran Brann, UNIFIL General Commander, Stefano Del Col, UNIFIL Western Sector Commander, Diodato Abaniara, and his Deputy, Irish Ambassador to the Middle East, Sean O'Reilly, Maltese Army Chief-of-Staff, Jeffrey Kormi, Commander of the Irish Regiment Kymen Kyo, Lebanese Army officers and several prominent dignitaries from the region.
In his delivered speech on the occasion, the Irish Defense Minister said, "March 17 is an Irish National Day that reflects on our values, successes and victories...and most important of all is our place in the world. I do not think I can find a place to shed light on what it means to be Irish, better than Lebanon. For more than 40 years, soldiers of the Irish Defense Forces have been stationed here in southern Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL peacekeepers, a number of them were injured, including some who lost their lives in order to provide security for the people around them."
"...We heard the cries of distress of the Lebanese and sent our soldiers to help. The soldiers who served here in southern Lebanon will return to their homes carrying part of Lebanon inside their hearts," he added.
"As a minister, I would like to express a word of appreciation to the local community here today. You have supported the Irish Defense Forces for 40 years...You have not only allowed us to enter your country, but you have welcomed us and you have valued the sacrifices of our soldiers for the sake of your community's security," said Kew.
In turn, UNIFIL Chief Del Col said, "I am honored today to be here to distribute honorary medals to the Irish Regiment 113. These medals are proof of your contribution to the protection of the people here in South Lebanon."
He added: "You have exerted relentless efforts along the Blue Line and you have taken a lot of risks, and contributed to maintaining a calm situation during the tunnel crisis that occurred between Lebanon and Israel."
Del Col indicated that the Irish battalion has lost "47 of its soldiers in its work to maintain security and defend civil society." He praised the "close cooperation between the Contingent's Commander-in-Chief's battalion and civil society members in the cultural and social fields."
Following the ceremony, the Irish Defense Minister and his accompanying delegation visited the towns of Yaroun and Maroun Al-Rass to check on the Irish Contingent's positions, and then returned to the Tairi base and from there to Beirut. It is to note that Minister Kew's visit was especially devoted to inspecting his country's battalion operating in southern Lebanon.
Source: National news Agency