By Tom Brady Security Editor
Thursday June 26 2008
FIFTY years of peacekeeping will be celebrated in military barracks around the country today.
Personnel from the Defence Forces have carried out 59,000 tours of duty in 74 separate missions, and 85 Irish military personnel have lost their lives peacekeeping. The missions ranged from Irish troops first UN-mandated role as observers in Lebanon, in 1958, to current activities in Chad and Kosovo.
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dermot Earley said: "We consider this to be a milestone in our history and we are mindful of the sacrifices made by 85 of our members who lost their lives on overseas service, as well as looking to the future and further developing our capability abroad."
Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Defence Minister Willie O'Dea and Lt Gen Earley will attend a parade ceremony at McKee Barracks in Dublin this afternoon.
Some of the first Lebanon peacekeepers will join the parade of troops -- drawn from the Army, Air Corps, Naval Service, the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and the Irish UN Veterans' Association.
Commemorative ceremonies will be held in all barracks nationwide and on overseas missions while the chairman of An Post, John Fitzgerald, will launch a special stamp, to be unveiled by the Taoiseach, to mark the occasion.
At present, there are 810 men and women serving overseas on 12 missions, including 408 personnel in the Eufor mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, 284 with Kfor in Kosovo and 47 in Eufor BiH in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Writing in the Irish Independent today, Mr O'Dea says participation in overseas peacekeeping is a key element of Ireland's foreign policy and has been an important dimension in meeting Ireland's international obligations as a member of the UN and the EU.
"For over 50 years, the UN has symbolised Ireland's best hopes for a world at peace. The UN stands for the rule of law, for social and political justice and for the peaceful settlement of disputes," he writes.
He points out that Ireland is a very large peacekeeping contributor, relative to our size, resources and capabilities, both financial and military.
And he says the nature of peacekeeping operations has changed extensively, from traditional UN-led "blue hat" missions, to multifaceted regionally-led peace operations. The onus is now being placed on regional states to organise and assemble peacekeeping troops for the purpose of discharging a UN mandate.
Here's to 50 more!:)
On footpatrol in East Timor in 2001
A peacekeeper carries out a minesweep in Lebanon
The first troops - from the 32nd Battalion - prepare to leave from Baldonnel for the Congo in July 1960
Shots are fired at the graveside in Glasnevin in November 1960 for the Niemba ambush victims
Irish peacekeepers pictured in Lebanon in 1958
Irish peacekeepers pictured in Liberia