Almost 400 troops bound for troubled African state Chad went on parade in Dublin today ahead of joining the tough peace enforcement mission.
Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, and the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Dermot Earley, reviewed the 99 Infantry Battalion at McKee Barracks in Dublin.
The EU-mandated mission is working to save the lives of more than 400,000 refugees and internally displaced people occupying refugee camps along the border with the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur.
For 128 of the soldiers heading to the central African country later this month it will be their first tour of duty overseas.
Mr O’Dea said the 99 Infantry Battalion – the third Irish personnel to be deployed to Chad – will be replacing troops who performed their duties with humanity and professionalism.
The troops, drawn mostly from the 2nd Eastern Brigade in Dublin, Dundalk, and Gormanston, have completed a tough training course to prepare them for their four-month tour of duty.
“Occasions such as this one remind us of the great pride we can take in all that the Defence Forces have done – and continue to do – as peacekeepers throughout the world,” said Mr O’Dea.
“This mission to Chad and the central African republic was launched in response to a request from the United Nations to address the major humanitarian crisis resulting from hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing persecution from neighbouring Darfur.
“Ireland has strongly supported this mission from the outset and is the second largest contributor of troops.”
The mandate for the EU mission is due to expire on March 15, when a United Nations Blue Hat mission will take over.
Mr O’Dea said the Government has approved, in principle, the Defence Forces’ continued participation in the UN follow-on mission.