08 November 2008

President dedicates new Military Memorial

Today President Mary McAleese has unveiled a new national memorial monument to members of the Irish Defence Forces who have died in service.

The memorial, situated on Merrion Square in Dublin, was designed by the artist Brian King and features four sentries guarding an eternal flame.

Merrion Square was sealed off for the ceremonial event, which featured a guard of honour and then a special military parade with detachments from all branches of the Defence Forces.

The Irish government was represented by Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Defence Minister Willie O'Dea.

Senior officers and veterans of the Defence Forces, many of them with distinguished service records under the blue flag of the United Nations, also took part.

Today is the 48th anniversary of the Niemba ambush in the Congo, where nine soldiers of the Irish Army on UN duty were killed.
It was the largest single loss of life in any one incident in the more than 50-year-long history of Irish involvement in United Nations peacekeeping.

In the 1960 UN Congo operation a total of 26 Irish soldiers lost their lives on peacekeeping duty.
Sadly, after nearly half a century the Congo is still not a stable country. Today it is experiencing even more violence, turmoil and chaos than 48 years ago, when the UN tried to assist the newly independent country in establishing political structures.

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