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Speech By Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea T.D. at a Ceremony to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Ireland joining the United Nations

McKee Barracks Wednesday December 14th 2005
Minister Dermot Ahern, Secretary General, Deputy Chief of Staff, Honoured Veterans, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. I want to welcome you here today to McKee Barracks to mark the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s admission to membership of the United Nations on December 14th 1955.

Over the course of those fifty years, Ireland’s support for the United Nations has been unwavering. In his most recent address to the UN General Assembly An Taoiseach stated that Ireland is “…a state that has always placed the UN at the very centre of its foreign policy, a state whose soldiers have sacrificed their lives under the blue flag.

This affirmation is based on Article 29 of our Constitution, which states that Ireland is devoted to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation among nations founded on international justice and morality. This belief in the peaceful settlement of international disputes and the principles of international law has been the stated policy of successive governments, not just since 1955, but since the foundation of the State.

The most visible and tangible expression of our membership of the United Nations and our support for its principles has been the participation by Irish Defence Forces in UN peacekeeping operations.

Since our first UN peacekeeping mission in 1958, our troops have performed over 54,000 tours of duty on 58 UN peace support operations worldwide.

From the Congo to Kosovo and from the Lebanon to Liberia, you – the men and woman of the Irish Defence Forces - have never hesitated to move into some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. Wherever you have gone with the United Nations in the cause of peace, you have made a real and lasting contribution to the lives of the local communities.

To all our Defence Force veterans, to all the members of ONET and IUNVA here today and across the country; I want, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government to thank you for your courage, your dedication and unselfish humanity. You have served as Ambassadors for Ireland.

I also want to extend those thanks to your families and loved ones in recognition of the sacrifices they also had to make. The support, encouragement and loyalty of your family and friends was vital in enabling you to serve abroad and help protect and save the lives of countless numbers of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet.

Tragically, in saving those lives too many of our finest young people have lost their own. We must never forget the selfless individual courage of the 85 dedicated Irish Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace and justice in a range of trouble spots across three continents. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families today.

For over 50 years the United Nations has symbolized Ireland’s best hopes for a world at peace. I believe there is a simple reason for this commitment. The United Nations stands for the rule of law, for social and political justice and for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

These are important principles for us. They are at the heart of our identity. For although we sometimes forget it, the highest hope of the global community is to achieve what we in Ireland have achieved for ourselves: a means of living together in peace and understanding. While we do not have an answer to every problem, we do have the means to pursue these answers together with respect, tolerance, accommodation and compromise.

Since its inception the United Nations has struggled against racism and colonialism, against disease and illiteracy. It has stood up for those who have no voice the oppressed, and millions of women and children around the world. It has contained many conflicts and brought relief to their victims. Ireland is rightly proud of the part it has played in assisting this process.

Last year the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan came here to McKee Barracks to pay tribute to our troops for their continuing service to the United Nations. While he was here he spoke of his desire to see regional organisations, such as the EU, helping the UN to respond rapidly to crisis situations. Ireland supports the Secretary General in his desire to see more effective and speedy UN responses and will continue to do all it can to assist and aid the United Nations in this.

Peace remains elusive for millions around the world. The rights of nations and the rights of individuals under international law must still be defended. The gap between rich and poor countries is too wide. The right balance between economic development and a healthy environment must be established.

We still have so much to do. Today we need the United Nations More than ever. We need it to maintain international stability and order. We need it to tackle problems that do not respect borders like AIDS, drugs and terrorism.

The work of the United Nations goes on, with Ireland continuing to play a key part. Its institutions are all the richer today, thanks to the services provided by our peacekeepers, our diplomats and our representatives during the past fifty years.


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Speech By Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea T.D. at a Ceremony to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Ireland joining the United Nations
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