26 June 2008

50 Years of Irish Peacekeeping

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

3 comments:

garreth said...

I think we can be quietly proud that as a small nation with a modest but well-trained army we have played a noble part in UN peacekeeping operations. Members of the Gardai have also volunteered for UN duties, and the navy has transported equipment to West Africa to support the troops. I consider that this decent role in UN affairs is the best legacy of the sacrifices of those who fought for Irish sovereignty between 1916 and 1921. We can use our sovereignty at home and abroad for the benefit of humanity. The historic role of Irish missionaries in third world development since the mid-19th century is another important aspect of Ireland's world role.

THE EMERALD ISLANDER said...

Quite right. We have indeed played a very significant role in the United Nations peacekeeping efforts, and we continue to do so. Which is even more significant given the small size of Ireland's armed forces.

The Garda Siochana has also been involved in UN operations in recent years, as well as in other EU and NATO-led programmes to train police forces of newly liberated countries. I hope that the work of the Gardai will be officially recognised as well by the state when they reach the date of a significant jubilee (as they were not represented yesterday).

The Republic of Ireland, as a free and sovereign state, can indeed be seen as a real success and a model for other countries that have long fought for freedom and independence (like Kosovo, for example).

With regards to the work of Irish missionaries I am not so sure. They have certainly done much good work over the years and centuries, but looking at Africa (where they were - and still are - most active) I do wonder if their message of true Christian values has really sunken into the local peoples' minds. The many wars and acts of unspeakable violence committed by people who were and are - at least nominal - Christians are disheartening. And the fact that Robert Mugabe is a Catholic and was educated by Irish priests and brothers is certainly not something to be proud of.

garreth said...

Mugabe was taught good English by his Irish Jesuit priest. He became acquainted with marxist theory later at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, where many Africans earned their degrees during and since colonial times. Many African nationalists were attracted to marxism in the 1960s as a result of racial oppression. They saw Western governments passing condemnatory resolutions while the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia provided guerrilla liberation movements with arms to fight the system. Irish missionaries (not Jesuits) educated young Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika and found funds for him to travel to the UN to plead his country's case for independence; however he discovered Fabian socialist ideas while studying economics at the University of Edinburgh. Maybe it is the academic environment and the hard university of life, not the mission schoolroom, that has a formative influence on young people's political ideas.

The lasting contribution of Irish and other missionaries to Africa would be the educational and medical infrastructure, much depleted in the 1970s and 1980s by IMF-imposed 'structural adjustment
programmes'.

Individuals turn out good or bad in later life according to their own life choices and consciences. So while we get a bloody dictator like Mugabe we also get another mission-educated individual like Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo (educated at St. Patrick's Primary School etc.)who has bravely criticised Mugabe and been smeared with sexual scandal allegations for his pains. (Other critics and their spouses have been murdered).

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