Irish troops return home from Syria following delay

More than 100 personnel from the 57th Infantry Group had been due back at start of October

The personnel from the 57th Infantry group had  been due home the first week of October. Photograph: Dave Meehan

The personnel from the 57th Infantry group had been due home the first week of October. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

More than 100 Irish troops returned to Dublin Airport on Tuesday morning, following a six-month deployment to Syria.

The personnel from the 57th Infantry Group had been due home the first week of October but had to remain in the Middle East. Minister of State with Responsibility for the Defence Forces Paul Kehoe said on October 4th the problem was due to what he termed “diplomatic clearance” not having been obtained but he refused to explain what that meant.

He refused also to say where the problem originated – in Ireland, the Lebanon or Syria – but acknowledged that he became aware of it several days before the abortive attempt to get the soldiers home on October 2nd.

The problem is understood to have prevented the troops crossing a frontier to start their journey back to Ireland from Syria.

The 57th Infantry Group is a force reserve company that provides a rapid reaction response to threats against the United Nations observer force in an area of separation between Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria proper.

In the case of those who were due to return to Ireland, families who had booked holidays and scheduled other family events had to make other plans.

Mr Kehoe announced compensation to each serving member affected of €1,000.

Personnel from the 57th Infantry Group were met at the airport on Tuesday morning by friends and family. The group were the first Irish unit to redeploy to Syria following a UN evacuation of personnel in 2014. The majority of the 119 troops are drawn from the 3rd Infantry Battalion based in Stephens Barracks, Kilkenny.

“There were lots of families and lots of tears. . . everything went great” a spokesman for the Defence Forces said.