(Limerick West): I propose to take Question Nos. 20, 24, 28, 34, 42 and 51 together.
Before dealing with the substance of the question, I wish to say that I know that the House will wish to join with me in expressing the sympathy of the House to the families and friends of Corporal Fintan Heneghan, Private Mannix Armstrong, Private Michael McNeela and Private Thomas Walsh on their tragic loss, and in acknowledging the supreme sacrifice made by these men in the cause of peace with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
Private McNeela died on 24 February 1989 when his checkpoint at Haddathah village came under fire from Israeli-backed militia. On 21 March 1989 Corporal Heneghan, Private Walsh and Private Armstrong died near the village of Brashit as a result of the explosion of a mine beneath their truck.
Following the most recent tragedy, I asked the Chief-of-Staff to visit Lebanon to assess the situation there and to liaise with the United Nations authorities in their investigations. As the House will be aware, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has been given responsibility by the Security Council for the day-to-day administration of the Force and the Secretary-General, in turn, has appointed a Force Commander who has responsibility for the operational deployment of the Force. The detailed investigation being conducted by the United Nations is not yet complete and so far it has not been possible to establish who was responsible for placing the explosive device or against whom it was directed.
In the course of his visit the Chief-of-Staff met UN Under Secretary-General Marrack Goulding, UNIFIL Force Commander Lt. Gen. Wahlgren, Irish battalion personnel and local leaders. Security in the Irish area of operations was examined and a number of measures to enhance the safety of Irish personnel were agreed, including the provision of specialist in mine discoveries and bomb disposal, certain engineering works and the closure of a high risk post.
In general the safety of Irish troops serving with UNIFIL is kept under constant review. Troops selected for overseas service undergo a rigorous programme of training designed to help them carry out their peacekeeping mission and to provide for their protection. They are issued with a modern range of weapons and equipment and operational procedures are geared to provide maximum safety for our troops consistent with the carrying out of their mission. I am satisfied that the training, equipment and procedures provide adequately for the protection of our personnel.