Today, the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D., reviewed the members of the 60th Infantry Group who will leave shortly for service with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights.
Speaking during the Review, Minister Kehoe said, “Participation in overseas peacekeeping missions across the public service, but most particularly by our Defence Forces, is a key element of Ireland’s foreign policy. It has been an important dimension in cementing Ireland’s international obligations as a committed member of the UN and the EU.”
Addressing the 60th Infantry Group, the Minister said “You, the men and women of the 60th Infantry Group under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Dwyer, are the latest to continue the long and proud tradition of supporting the United Nations in the cause of peace, stability and security.”
Soldiers from 26 counties around Ireland are represented among the 130 strong contingent deploying to UNDOF, 48 troops are deploying on their first tour of duty overseas.
The Minister went on to say “The role of the Defence Forces, on overseas operations, is one of service to vulnerable communities and to the men, women and children devastated by conflict in their lands.”
Minister Kehoe also warmly welcomed the recent appointment by the United Nations of Brigadier General Maureen O’Brien to the post of Deputy Force Commander in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. The Minister stated “Brigadier General O’Brien will bring extensive command and peacekeeping experience to the post and I have no doubt that she will serve with distinction in this important position. I want to warmly congratulation her and her family on this great occasion.”
Note to Editor
At the request of the United Nations, following Government and Dáil Éireann approval, a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force was deployed as the Force Mobile Reserve to UNDOF on the Golan Heights in Syria since 2013.
Following significant events in August 2014 in the area of separation, the UNDOF mission relocated temporarily from a number of positions. Pending the full return of UNDOF to the area of separation, the mission has continued to maintain a credible presence in the Golan in line with its mandate.
The initial phase of an incremental return of the mission to Camp Faouar on the Syrian of the area of separation was completed in September 2016. Further deployment took place during 2017 and in to 2018 under Phase II of the UN's plan for redeployment to Camp Faouar. This involved the deployment of a Nepalese Mechanised Infantry Company and elements of the Force headquarters staff including 8 Irish Defence Forces staff officers. The full relocation of Irish personnel to Camp Faouar was completed in September 2018
The Irish contingent, comprising some 130 personnel, will deploy to the Camp Faouar on the Syrian side of the area of separation and replace personnel of the 59th Infantry Group who will shortly complete their tour of duty.
Brigadier General O’Brien joined the Defence Forces in 1981. She was commissioned into the Infantry Corps and took up an appointment as a Platoon Commander in the 4th Infantry Battalion and was later appointed to the Cadet School as an Instructor. In 2011 she became the first female in the Irish Defence Forces to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and in 2012 she became the first female Infantry Battalion Commander when she was appointed Officer Commanding 27th Infantry Battalion.
Brigadier General O’Brien has extensive overseas service. Her first two deployments were to Lebanon (UNIFIL), then she served in Western Sahara (MINURSO), East Timor (UNTAET), and Sarajevo (OSCE). In 2009 she became the first Irish female officer to serve as Deputy Commanding Officer of an Infantry Battalion in Chad (MINURCAT). Her most recent deployment was as Chief of Operations Planning in a multi-national Sector HQ with UNIFIL in Lebanon.