The year 1958 was the first time the Irish Army sent a number of personnel on a peace mission to work abroad. They were a team of observers who went to the Lebanon. The next group to go abroad were members of An Chéad Cath and they were stationed in the Congo from 1960 to 1963. From 1963 to 1974, our soldiers were stationed in Cyprus, and later a number were sent to the Sinai Desert for nine months. After the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, all Irish military personnel were withdrawn and brought home
Yesterday was a significant day for the members of No 1 Platoon, C Company of the 43rd Infantry Battalion, as it was the 40th anniversary of May 23, 1978, the day Irish peace missions abroad resumed, when the soldiers in our photograph landed in Tel Aviv and were transported to the Lebanon. They were all members of An Chéad Cath and were an advance party for the main body of 500 Irish troops who followed them out two weeks later. Their job was to secure the area where they were to work and to set up a base.
Their company headquarters were in Al-Sultanagh and the three platoon areas they covered were Quabrica, Aljourna, and Birsanassal. It was a big adventure for these soldiers, many of whom were only 19 or 20 years of age. Up to this point they had done most of their soldiering along the border here, and only four of them had been abroad before. They were there because in March/April of that year the PLO had attacked Israel, and the Irish were manning a ‘buffer zone’ between the two factions
It was a very different operation for them, a different country, a different culture, a different set of beliefs in the local people, a different language. They manned static checkpoints, 24-hour guard shifts, and foot patrols in villages, and they were there for six months.
The members of the platoon in our photograph are, back row, left to right: John Molloy, Andy Brogan, Tony Geasley, Liam Gaffey, Martin Gannon, Steve Danagher, Joe Dempsey, Pat Nugent, Mossy Cunningham, Jimmy Farrell. In the middle row are Bill Courtney, Andy Shaw, Brendan Forde, Brian Woods, Tony Doyle, Ringo Molloy, Mick Cox, Charlie Hurley, and John Kelly. Front row: Seamus Tierney, Pat Nugent, Pat Ryan, Peter Gibbons, Lt Pat Sweeney, Platoon Sergeant Jimmy Kerrigan, Hugh ‘Bomber’ Flynn, and Cpl Paddy Gaffney. Missing from the photograph was Cpl Gerry Burns.
To commemorate this notable anniversary of their going to the Lebanon, the group will attend a memorial Mass next Saturday in the Garrison Chapel in Renmore. This will be followed by a wreath laying ceremony in the memorial garden beside the chapel and later a dinner in Flannery’s Hotel.