Ireland has always been a strong supporter of the United Nations and UN Peacekeeping and has participated in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mission since its establishment in 1978. The UNIFIL mission in Lebanon continues to represent Ireland's largest overseas deployment with 460 personnel.
Ireland's participation in UN and UN-mandated peacekeeping missions is a tangible demonstration of our commitment to the pursuit of international peace and security. At present there are some 670 members of the Defence Forces serving in overseas missions worldwide.
Permanent Defence Force personnel rotate to UNIFIL in May and November each year, following a six month tour of duty, on average. The 114th Infantry Battalion is due to replace the 113th Infantry Battalion in the area of operations shortly.
In respect of this upcoming deployment, I am advised by the Defence Forces that all officer command positions have been filled with the exception of one junior officer appointment which recently became vacant due to unforeseen circumstances. The military authorities are confident that this position will be filled shortly.
It should be remembered that the required increase in Ireland’s contribution to UNIFIL was unexpected as we had been in discussions with the Czech Republic to backfill the exiting Finnish contingent. Unfortunately this did not materialise. At short notice, the Defence Forces were tasked to undertake a temporary backfill of our UNIFIL contingent. As a result, we now have a Battalion in UNIFIL and also a Company in UNDOF, along with other significant postings in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. This is a major success on the part of the Defence Forces to man two significant missions. The recently agreed deployment of a Polish Armed Forces contingent together with a contribution from the Hungarian Forces, will alleviate pressure on the Defence Forces when they join our UNIFIL contingent in November 2019.