Ceremonies have been held today in several of the Irish military barracks to mark fifty years of Ireland's involvement with United Nations peacekeeping overseas.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen attended a parade at McKee Barracks in Dublin, with some retired soldiers present who served in the first Irish UN peacekeeping mission to Lebanon in 1958.
Since then many thousands of Ireland's soldiers have served in more than 70 UN missions all around the world. 85 members of the Irish Defence Forces have lost their lives on overseas duty. At present there are over 800 Irish men and women serving abroad. The biggest missions today are in Chad and Kosovo.
Lieutenant General Dermot Earley (left), Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, said he and his colleagues are mindful of the sacrifices made by Irish soldiers, but they are also looking to the future development of their overseas capability.
During the fifty years of active participation in UN peacekeeping operations Ireland has contributed a high percentage of her soldiers, keeping in mind that there are only about 8500 at any time on active service.
And wherever they were sent, Irish troops earned themselves a very high reputation for competence and fairness. Especially in the Near East - most of all in Lebanon and Cyprus - Irish soldiers wearing the blue beret of the United Nations are very popular with the local people and trusted by the political and military leaders from all sides.
Having never waged war against any country, the Republic of Ireland is a very positive example for the use of soldiers for peacekeeping and the service to the whole world.
The Emerald Islander