An Air Corps plane and its crew are on the way back to Ireland after a military operation to repatriate equipment from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Department of Defence.

The operation is associated with the departure of defence personnel from the United Nations' MONUSCO mission.

On 31 July, two people were killed and several others injured after UN peacekeepers opened fire during an incident in the eastern DRC.

Earlier that month, deadly demonstrations demanding the departure of the United Nations took place in several towns in the region.

A total of 29 people, including four peacekeepers, were killed.

It is understood three Irish defence personnel, who were in the country as part of Ireland's assistance to the peacekeeping force, left last week.

Their equipment is being repatriated by the Air Corps plane.

In a statement, the department said the plane "was never stranded in Uganda" and the operation to get the plane back to Ireland "involves diplomatic clearances across the airspace and territory of 14 countries".

The Department said it was always expected to take until the end of this week due to religious holidays in a number of countries.

The plane and crew are "in the air" and expected back in Ireland tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Cathal Berry, an Independent TD for Kildare South, has said the aircraft being used by the Defence Forces to repatriate equipment from the DRC is "completely unsuitable" for such a mission.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, he said the plane was not built for long haul flights.

"It has limited range, it only has a single engine and it’s a very, very small aircraft.

"As a result, a challenging operation became even more complex because it had to be refuelled four times on the way down and on the way back.

"We’re the only country in the EU - bar Malta - that doesn’t have a means to transport their own people who get in trouble overseas."

Mr Berry added: "This time last year in Kabul [Afghanistan] Irish troops had to literally hitch hike with French aircraft to get out Irish citizens."