Rock star homecoming for Ireland's UN peacekeepers
OUR heroic UN troops got a rock star welcome in Dublin Airport as they returned home from a six-month stint in the Middle East.
The thundering sound of rockets and gunfire was replaced with a roar of applause and cheers as hundreds of well-wishers turned up for a rapturous homecoming.
It was an anxious wait for loved ones as a delayed flight saw families waiting for over two hours for the soldiers.
But their worry was soon lifted as some 181 tanned troops started to stream through the arrival hall doors.
For little Síofra Gallacher, it was a special homecoming. Wearing her communion dress, the ecstatic eight-year-old rushed to her father's arms as soon as he appeared.
The emotional youngster made her First Holy Communion in Athlone, Co Westmeath on Saturday and wanted to be sure her daddy saw her in her dress.
Sgt Mark Gallacher (43), who was returning from his eighth tour abroad said he was "delighted" to be home.
"How could you not be delighted with a welcome like this," he said.
"I have missed first words, first birthdays and first steps, but nothing beats coming home to my five wonderful children," added Sgt Gallacher, from Ballydangan, Co Roscommon.
But it won't be all fun and games for the soldier as his wife, Natasha, said there is a list of chores waiting for him.
"The house needs painting, the lawn needs to be mowed and there is plenty of DIY to be done," she joked.
The soldiers had spent half a year as part of the UN Peacekeeping patrol trying to calm tensions between Lebanon and Israel.
The battalion deployed last November and were stationed in a post south of the village of Al-Tiri close to the border.
The Irish detachment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Kevin McCarthy, who said he was "extremely proud" of his troops after a very successful tour.
"We were extremely concerned after the death of a Spanish peacekeeper in Golan Heights and tensions were high. But our training and professionalism ensured that everything went smoothly," he added.