Remarks By Minister For Defence, Willie O’Dea, T.D.
at the Unveiling Of A Monument To The 85 Irish Soldiers
Who Lost Their Lives On UN Missions Overseas
St. Mary's Garden of Remembrance, Thurles Sunday May 29th 2005
Mayor Kenehan, Archbishop Clifford, General Savino, Deputies, Councillors, Members of the Memorial Committee, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy and proud to be here today, to unveil this magnificent memorial to the 85 Irish Soldiers who lost their lives in the service of United Nations peacekeeping missions overseas.
From the Congo to Kosovo and from the Lebanon to Liberia, for almost half a century now, the men and woman of the Irish Defence Forces have never hesitated to move into some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones.
And wherever they have gone in the cause of peace, the men and women of the Defence Forces have made a real and lasting contribution to the lives of the local communities.
They have served as Ambassadors for Ireland, at all times showing a uniquely Irish combination of professional excellence and unselfish humanity.
In the course of their many missions, they have saved 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. And this monument commemorates their sacrifice.
The sight of each individual’s name engraved in these five granite plaques serves to remind us of the individual courage of the 85 selfless and dedicated Irish Soldiers each of who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace in a range of trouble spots across three continents.
Each name marks a life cut short – a life cut short in the belief that people everywhere have the right to live their lives in peace and justice, free from fear.
Of course this fine memorial also serves to remind us of the great loss felt by their families, their comrades and their friends. Many of those families, friends and comrades are here today.
I hope that this fine memorial and the knowledge that the sacrifice of their loved ones will not be forgotten will bring them some comfort and some pride.
Today is a most appropriate day for the unveiling of this important and significant memorial, as today is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. This is the date designated by the United Nations General Assembly for all of us to pay tribute to the men and women who have served - and continue to serve - in United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The United Nations Resolution that established May 29th as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, called on all Nations to use this day to recognise the “high level of professionalism, dedication and courage” of those who serve and “to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace”. This your Committee has done, by erecting this magnificent memorial to those who have served and died in the cause of peace. I congratulate you and I thank you.
And it seems particularly apt that I am unveiling this memorial here today as tomorrow morning I leave for Kosovo and Bosnia to meet the 262 young Irish men and women who are continuing Ireland’s great tradition of UN peacekeeping service by helping to stabilise and rebuild those war torn corners of Europe.
It is just over a year since ethnic violence reigned in Kosovo, today we have 208 Irish troops serving there as part of a UN mandated multi-national brigade led by Finland. In Bosnia & Herzegovina too our 54 soldiers are playing a vital role in stabilising that region.
When I meet them next week, I will be able to assure them, that they were in your thoughts and your prayers here today. Like the rest of you, I hope and pray that none of our soldiers be they in Kosovo, in Liberia, or on any present or future UN peacekeeping mission will ever need to have their names inscribed on this memorial.
No project of this significance can have come about without the efforts of many people and I would like to say a few words of thanks to these people and pay tribute to them for their endeavours.
I want to congratulate all the members of the Memorial committee: the chairman, John Wort, Pat Walsh, Eamon Coonan, Noel O’Dwyer, Bridin O’Gorman, Dom Wixted, Mick Power, Jim Ryan and to today’s ceremony commander: Paddy Skehan.
Particular praise is also due to the dedication and commitment of the members of the Thomas MacDonagh and Pierce McCann branches of the O.N.E. and to all the members of Post 18 of the United Nations Veterans Association IUNVA.
I want also to acknowledge the support of those countless people who have helped in so many ways: statutory agencies, local authorities and individuals.
And now, it is my very great pleasure to officially unveil this magnificent memorial to the 85 Irish Soldiers who lost their lives in the cause of peace.
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