An Irish peacekeeper's death in Lebanon won't change Dublin's UN missions policy

But the tragedy is another reminder that serving on the frontlines of conflicts is never risk-free

Irish UN peacekeepers and Lebanese soldiers investigate the scene where a UN peacekeepers' convoy was fired on in Al Aqbiya village, southern Lebanon, on Thursday. AP
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Today’s news that an Irish soldier has lost his life in Lebanon while serving as a UN peacekeeper will come as a hammer blow not only to his family, but to the country as a whole.

The Irish media frequently report on the happy scenes at Dublin Airport as members of Oglaigh na hEireann — the Irish Defence Forces — come home from the Middle East on rotation and are greeted with tears and hugs by their loved ones.

Coming just before Christmas, the announcement that a 27th Infantry Battalion soldier died and another was injured in a gun attack on their convoy will darken the holidays for many.

Ireland, a non-Nato member that sits alongside the UAE on the UN Security Council, prides itself on the contribution that its armed forces have made to peacekeeping since 1958.

Until now, 90 Irish soldiers have died while on duty with the international organisation, 47 of them in Lebanon.

Ireland’s military contribution for such a small country has been significant. More Irish troops have been killed in the Unifil mission than any other country since 1978, and Ireland has supplied more than 30,000 soldiers to it for more than 20 years.

In 1980, the Irish people were shocked when five of their soldiers were killed serving in Lebanon in April that year alone. The youngest, Pte Caoimhan Seoighe, was 20 and the oldest, Pte Derek Smallhorn, was just 31.

Today’s death will be painful for the Irish government and people, but is unlikely to change Dublin’s policy of contributing soldiers and police officers to a variety of UN missions.

But as today’s events in Lebanon prove, serving on the frontlines of intractable conflicts is never a risk-free endeavour.

Published: December 15, 2022, 10:16 AM
Updated: December 26, 2022, 10:16 PM