Speech by the Minister for Defence Mr Willie O’Dea, TD at a Ceremony to mark International Day of the UN Peacekeeper at Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick, May 29th
Distinguished guests, Deputy Chief of Staff, GOC South, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today, May 29th, is the day designated by the United Nations as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.
It is a day to honour the men and women who have served and who are serving on UN peacekeeping missions across the world and I am pleased to be here in Sarsfield Barracks to do so. There is no greater honour for a soldier than to protect and save life.
Here we must remember and pay tribute to the 85 members of Óglaigh na hÉireann who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving abroad with the United Nations over the last 50 years.
Today almost 800 Irish personnel are proudly serving in UN mandated missions across the globe, from Chad and Bosnia to Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Since our first UN mission in June 1955 our soldiers and Gardaí have earned a reputation for professionalism and excellence. They have been strong when required and fearless when it mattered. They have shown fairness, humanity and impartiality, bringing peace and security with good humour and a respect for cultures and beliefs.
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 UN stands for the rule of law, for social and political justice and for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
I am honoured to be here in Sarsfield Barracks today to express the Nation’s pride for all you have done, both individually and collectively, in the service of the United Nations.
Many, many people today live free from the fear of oppression and torment thanks to your heroic efforts.
We all remain in your debt. Thank you.