Written Answers. - Irish UNIFIL Forces.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

27 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the number of attacks on Irish UNIFIL forces in the Lebanon since the commencement of operations there; the number of fatalities; the number of soldiers injured; and the prospect for the future in view of the changed circumstances in the area.

Since Irish participation in UNIFIL commenced in May 1978, Irish personnel serving with that Force have been subjected to ten deliberate attacks. They have also been subjected to harassment of varying degrees over the years. During the year ended 31 December 1993 there was a total of 373 firings at or close to Irish UNIFIL positions and other incidents such as serious confrontations at check-points totalled 207.

Since May 1978 the number of Irish fatalities in this mission is 37, of which 14 have been the result of deliberate attacks. Approximately 200 Irish troops have been injured in Lebanon due to hostile action including deliberate attacks. The majority of these injuries were of a minor nature.

While representing a radical change for the better, the new relationship between Israel and the PLO does not in any way lessen the need for the UNIFIL presence in South Lebanon. Renewed tension in the entire region following the Hebron massacre serves to underline the need for the UN force to bolster the fragile peace process.
Continued Irish participation in UNIFIL is fully consistent with Ireland's firm commitment to the United Nations and to our tradition of support for the principles and practices of UN peace-keeping. The Irish contingent, by virtue of its long service and its reputation of professionalism, is a key element in the entire UNIFIL operation.