Minister of State Paul Kehoe, was among a host of local leading figures and VIP guests who attended the St. Patrick’s Day festivities for Irish members of the UN Interim Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on Saturday.
Minister Kehoe made the traditional presentation of Shamrock to many Kildare troops at the Irish Battalion’s Headquarters in Tibnin.
“Your presence here is a great source of pride to Ireland,” he told the troops, “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 are a proud nation. Your work and your actions here are a reflection on Ireland.”
The 105th Infantry Battalion, the 50th Irish unit to serve in Lebanon, has been patrolling the disputed border areas between Lebanon and Israel, also received their mission medals ahead of their rotation in May.
St. Patrick’s Day is a cause for huge celebrations for the local people in Tibnin, who lobbied strongly to have the Irish soldiers of UNIFIL reinstated to their area last year.
Members of Ireland’s Defence Forces returned to Lebanon last May.
Trooper Anthony McDonald of Brannockstown, Kildare entered the Defence Forces just three and a half years ago, after he was let go from a full-time job in the construction industry.
“I was a late comer I had a fulltime job in the construction industry and lucky that the defence forces were recruiting that year. I was lucky enough to fall on my feet,” he told the Leinster Leader.
“I’ve always had an interest in Army stuff and read books about it, and being so close to the Curragh it’s hard not to be interested .”
This mission is his first trip to Lebanon but his second overseas mission in two years.
“The weather was a lot better in Chad!” he laughs, as a cold Irish type day turns into a volatile Lebanese thunder storm, “last week the temperature was up into the mid-twenties, before that we had everything, rain, hale sleet snow!”
Trooper McDonald is a crewman for one of the UN armoured personnel carriers and part of the ‘Quick Reaction’ team.
He is looking forward to seeing his three nieces and nephew come May.
“Ella is the eldest then there’s Aisling, Aiden and Ava-Lily. I can’t wait to get home and see them. They know where I am, Facebook and Skype is great,” he says,“ I have one niece she was only two or three weeks old when I came over here so when I get home she’s going to be huge, my other niece is five and my other niece has just started primary school. I just can’t wait to see them. The little fellow is the only boy. He knows I’m missing because before when I was at home, he’d come into my room and now the whole time he’s going to the room and the door is locked and he can’t get in!” Another treat will be the luxury of doing nothing at all. “I love it out here, but to just get up at home and think ‘what can I do today?’ I have two dogs, so just to go out for a walk and chill out and relax. Then see all my friends and have a laugh”.