UNIFIL Irish soldiers celebrate last Saint Patrick’s Day in Lebanon

The Daily Star, Lebanon
March 19 2004

Unifil Irish soldiers celebrate their last Saint Patrick’s Day in
Sprigs of shamrock had been flown in from Ireland

By Paul Cochrane
Special to The Daily Star

Saint Patrick’s Day is an event celebrated with a great deal of
gusto wherever the Irish, descendants or citizens, congregate. In New
York the river is dyed green, and in Dublin it is the biggest social
event in between New Year and Easter.
In Beirut, dozens of Irish came together at the palatial Daouk
residence in Ain al-Mreisseh, the home of Ireland’s Consul General
Khaled Daouk, to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland.
Although St. Patrick was born in Wales, the saint first arrived in
Ireland as a slave, where he turned to religion and began his mission
in life to convert Ireland to Christianity. Among the myths
surrounding Patrick’s life, one is that he could raise people from
the dead, and the more widely known is that he drove all the snakes
from the Emerald Isle.
With the death of St. Patrick on March 17, 461 AD, the event has been
commemorated as a Catholic holiday ever since.
Amid numerous Lebanese socialites at the event, the Irish were
conspicuous by the green shamrocks attached to their suit lapels. The
shamrock, which along with the harp are Ireland’s national symbols,
is a small three leafed plant
that is significant in that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain
the Christian trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The shamrocks on display were the real McCoy, with over a 100 sprigs
having been flown in from Ireland with the fiancŽ of an Irish UN
Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) officer. There were seven Irish
officers, currently based in the South, at the event. Commandant
Timmy Daly said, “It is fantastic to be here as a guest, especially
as it is the last St. Patrick’s Day for Irish soldiers in Lebanon.”
The Irish contingent has been with Unifil in Southern Lebanon for the
past 26 years, but has been gradually phased out since the Israeli
withdrawal in 2000.
“When the Irish Army was here in force, I used to go down to Naqoura
every year as there was a big parade by the soldiers, a bagpipe band,
musicians from Ireland and a great banquet,” said Sister Mary
Delourdes, a teacher at Sagesse school. With fewer Irish in Lebanon,
St. Patrick’s Day has become a much smaller event.
Although whiskey and black stout beer are the traditional drinks of
Ireland, the black stuff was very much absent from the function, and
it was rather surprising to be served up Scotch rather than some of
Ireland’s best malts.
The event was celebrated with a buffet, a cake with the Irish
tricolors and an Armenian pianist tickling the ivories in the