Tears and laughter filled Dublin Airport’s arrivals hall as families and friends welcomed home Irish troops after a six-month deployment in Lebanon.
ver 200 personnel from the 120th Infantry Battalion, United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) were greeted by a cheering public, including a piper who filled the arrivals hall with music.
This was the first homecoming attended by families since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Scores of children held signs welcoming their mothers and fathers back. One little girl wore a shirt that said: “All I want for Christmas is my Daddy”.
Among those waiting at the airport yesterday was a family of four which included a young infant in a stroller.
“That’s my daughter Mila and we are waiting on her grandad, my Dad, to come back from Lebanon. She’s three weeks old, so he hasn’t met her yet. It’ll be the first time and he’s very excited,” said Nathan Clabby.
“He’s been away six months and has been 41 years in the military. He’ll go again in six months if he can. He’s nearly at retirement age.”
The grandfather, company sergeant Martin Clabby, was quickly swamped by his family as he scanned around for his new granddaughter.
“I feel good, glad to be home for Christmas. It’s the first time meeting my granddaughter too, she’s amazing, fantastic,” Mr Clabby told the Irish Independent.
Also waiting in the arrivals hall was young Cillian, who had dressed up specially in a military uniform as he awaited the arrival of his father Stephen Burke.
His mother Anne Burke said: “I’m collecting my husband, their daddy, on his second overseas trip. He’s been gone seven months. The last time he went away was six years ago. Cillian was only a baby at the time,” she said.
“The kids can’t wait. Are you looking forward to it?” Ms Burke asked her kids — Cillian and Grace, who cheered and waved their Irish flags.