Taoiseach visits troops in Lebanon

By Shaun Connolly

Enda Kenny has arrived in South Lebanon for the first visit by a Taoiseach to Irish peacekeeping troops in the dangerzone since 1999.

Mr Kenny arrived from Beirut via a Russian operated MI8 helicopter which forms part of the international force there.

The Taoiseach had earlier held talks in Beirut with the Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam at which he pledged an extra €2m in aid for the country's refugee crisis as it takes in those fleeing the civil war in next door Syria.

Mr Kenny was met by an honour guard at the UN base 181 Irish soldiers share with a larger Finnish force.

The Taoiseach, who took on the portfolio of Defence Minister when Alan Shatter resigned, was addressing Irish troops at the outpost which is only 40km from Syria.

He was also briefed on operations in the volatile region.

Addressing troops in the base's canteen, Mr Kenny told the troops: "On behalf of the people of our country and your families I came out here today to pay respect to you for what you do and the challenges and the sensitivities you must put up with in this region here in south Lebanon.

"We have great faith in your ability to understand these things and do your job as professional soldiers as profession members of the defence forces of our country as part of the UNFIL operation.

"I want you to know that and understand that. We are very proud of what you do."

Mr Kenny was presented with a Mayo jersey to sign, which will now hang in the canteen, which also acts as a bar for the 181 Irish soldiers in the camp.

The Taoiseach is heading for a wreath-laying ceremony to remember the 47 Irish soldiers killed in the Lebanon.

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