McAleese to visit troops in Lebanon
President Mary McAleese will visit Irish troops in Lebanon this weekend on her last official trip abroad.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter will accompany the President to Camp Shamrock, where she will present medals to 72 peacekeepers on their first overseas mission.
Ms McAleese, the Supreme Commander of the Irish Defence Forces, was the first head of state to visit troops abroad. She went to Lebanon in December 1998, in Kosovo and Bosnia in 2000 and Liberia in 2004.
On Friday, she will arrive at the presidential palace in Beirut to meet the president of Lebanon, Michel Sleiman.
The following morning she will visit Camp Shamrock in Tibnin where she will be briefed on the United Nations-mandated operation in the Middle East.
The President will meet some of the 440 Irish personnel in the 104 Infantry Battalion UNIFIL, plant a tree in honour of her visit and present medals to some of the youngest soldiers on the mission.
She will also visit a nearby orphanage supported by Irish personnel fundraising efforts and where Irish soldiers teach English.
The President will then lay a wreath at the Irish UNIFIL memorial in Tibnin in honour of 47 Irish soldiers who have lost their lives while on peacekeeping duties in the country.
On Sunday, she will meet members of the Irish community at a reception hosted by the Irish ambassador to Lebanon before she returns to Dublin.
Irish officers were first sent to Lebanon as observers in 1958, with the first battalion sent as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in 1978 formed after Israeli troops occupied the region.