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Soldier holds son for the first time after Leb stint

AS 181 Irish troops returned home from Lebanon, one soldier had a very special package waiting for him.

Private Jordan Poole arrived back to Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel to meet his ten-day-old son Ryan for the first time.

His face filled with joy as he cradled the little boy, born almost a month early, as his partner, Geniene, looked on.

Kildare-based Private Poole returned after safely completing a six-month deployment thousands of miles away in At Tiri, in southern Lebanon.

Holding Ryan carefully in his arms, Private Poole said he found the last few days "stressful" after learning his partner, who wasn't due until December 6 had gone into labour early.


"I just got on with things. But I was anxious to get home ... it's a long way but I got here eventually," he said.

"I couldn't wait to get home to hold my new son."

He had only seen his new-born son online - and in photographs sent to his mobile phone.

"I'm delighted that everything is going well with him," he said.

The returning troops were greeted by a small army of young, smiling faces, when they touched down on Irish soil shortly after 1.45pm.

Cheering crowds and flag-waving schoolchildren greeted the soldiers in an emotional homecoming for the members of the 45th Infantry Group.

Wives, children, girlfriends, parents and extended family, rushed to hug their loved ones.

The peacekeeping contingent, led by Lt Col Kevin Campion from Co Galway, has members from 22 counties on both sides of the border.

But the contingent is drawn mostly from Cork and Kildare, and formed part of the overall United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Among the arrivals was Battalion Quarter Master Sergeant Brian Cronin (45), who has completed 12 tours overseas, and was a member of three previous stints with UNIFIL.

Surrounded by "Welcome Home Daddy" banners made by the families of the troops, Sgt Colin McNama was flanked by two of his children.

"All the kids have been talking about is Christmas and Santa coming down the chimney so it's a different atmosphere compared to south Lebanon," he said.

Another contingent of 151 soldiers has replaced this group as part of Ireland's latest UN mission in the troubled Middle Eastern country.