Lt Brendan Prendergast, currently serving in South Lebanon.

Lieutenant Brendan Prendergast is just one of circa 350 Irish troops currently serving in south Lebanon, as part of the UNIFIL force in the region (the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). 

Speaking to The Avondhu from Bint Jbeil, about three and a half hours south of Beirut, Lieutenant Prendergast is enthusiastic about his first Christmas away from home.

“It’s my first tour, and I’ve been in the army for four years. I’m really enjoying it here; it’s always good to see new places! There’s a fantastic camaraderie, which is always good. You make friends for life here. We’re very busy, but it’s good busy.”

A native of Lismore in county Waterford, the 25 year old lieutenant is cheerful as he recounts how he will be spending his first Christmas away from home.

“We won’t be doing anything too special for Christmas Day, I’ll be celebrating with the lads here. We’re all in this together, and again, it’s just great camaraderie.”

Brendan joined the defence forces in September 2017, and was commissioned in February 2020 to the 1st Brigade Calvary Squadron. Lieutenant Prendergast and his comrades will be deployed for six month tours in the region.

The Waterford man entered two weeks of quarantine in The Glen in Cork back in October this year, before flying to Lebanon to begin his first tour there. It is the young man’s first time away from home for Christmas, but he is cheerful and pragmatic of the experience.

“I will miss the Christmas dinner, most of all, and of course seeing the brothers and sisters. But sure look, there’ll be plenty more Christmases!”

Laughing, remembering what a ‘normal’ Christmas consists of, Brendan doesn’t miss other elements of the party season.

“I won’t miss the morning after St Stephen’s Day!”

Brendan is currently serving with the 119th Infantry Battalion, a battalion consisting of approximately 400 Irish, Polish, Maltese and Hungarian troops. They are based in United Nations Post 2-45, north-east of the town of Bint Jbeil. Bint Jbeil is close to the border with Israel, and part of the duties of the forces that serve there include patrols, and monitoring of the Blue Line. The Blue Line is the ‘line of withdrawal’ between Israel and Lebanon across which neither civilians nor troops may cross. 

“I do the likes of daily operations, patrols and administration as it arises.. For the patrols, a group of vehicles move on various routes in the area in which we’re deployed, as a show of force, and to see what’s going on in the local area. There’s an element of risk, but it’s peaceful at the moment.”

UNIFIL has around 10,500 peacekeepers, from 45 troop-contributing countries including Ireland. Established in 1978, the mandate of UNIFIL today is to monitor the cessation of hostilities in the area since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 1978, and to accompany and support the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). The force is also tasked with ensuring humanitarian access to civilian populations, as well as the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons. 

Currently, the Irish Defence Forces has personnel serving in countries across the world, including Mali, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Kosovo.

We wish them all a safe and peaceful Christmas abroad.