Irish troops return home from Chad mission


Irish troops returning from Chad today have completed the Defence Forces’ toughest mission in recent times, according to Commandant Gary McKeon.

He said the members of the 97th Infantry Battalion, who spent four months on peace enforcement duties in the central African country, had endured extreme conditions comparable to Irish operations in the Congo 40 years ago.

“We have demonstrated to all actors in that theatre our absolute impartiality,” he said.

Troops from the 97th came under fire from rebel factions operating in the region last June but there were no casualties.

Comdt McKeon said Irish troops had earned “universal approval” from NGOs, the Chadian government “and indeed the rebels”.

He said the peacekeepers had “laid the foundation stone for the development and maintenance of a safe and secure environment”.

The 187 returning troops were drawn from units in Athlone, Mullingar, Longford and Donegal. They have been replaced by the 98th Infantry Battalion.

Hundreds of relatives and friends gathered at Baldonnell Airport this afternoon to welcome them after their 13-and-a-half hour journey.

The mission is under the operational command of Lieut Gen Pat Nash. Ireland
and France are the two largest contributors.