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SPEECH BY MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, MR. WILLIE O’DEA, T.D., AT THE UNVEILING OF A MEMORIAL PLAQUE TO MEMBERS OF THE IRISH DEFENCE FORCES WHO LOST THEIR LIVES ON OVERSEAS MISSIONS.

Boathouse Quay, Doorly Park, Sligo:
12 noon 1st May 2008

Chief of Staff, Senator, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen I am pleased to be with you this afternoon to remember and commemorate the memories of members of the Defence Forces who died while serving overseas. In particular, I wish to remember three young local Sligo members of the Defence Forces who were tragically killed while on UN peacekeeping duties in Lebanon – Cpl Dermot McLaughlin who died in January 1987 and Pte Manix Armstrong and Pte Thomas Walsh who both died in March 1989.

I was pleased, when approached by Senator Marc MacSharry, to be able to approve a contribution towards the cost of this memorial from “Per Cent for Art Scheme”. This project has been undertaken in collaboration with Sligo County Council and the military authorities.

This year we celebrate 50 years of Irish peacekeeping with the United Nations. Wherever the Irish Defence Forces have gone with the United Nations in the cause of peace, they have made a real and lasting contribution to the lives of the local communities. I want, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government to thank all serving members of the Defence Force and Defence Force Veterans across the country, for their courage and dedication during the past 50 years. 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.

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.

The sight of each individual’s name engraved on this memorial serves to remind us of the individual courage of Cpl McLaughlin and Pte’s Armstrong and Walsh 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 cause of ensuring that people can live their lives in peace and justice, free from fear. 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 this memorial and the knowledge that the sacrifice of their loved ones will not be forgotten will bring them some comfort.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Jackie McKenna and Seamus Dunbar for designing this impressive memorial. I would also like to thank Mary McDonagh Arts Officer with Sligo County Council, Sligo Borough Council, Lt Col Andy Kilfeather and Comdt. Gerry Casey, Officials within my Department and Senator Marc MacSharry who have all played a significant role in this project. A very special thank you and congratulations must also go to Mrs Josephine Armstrong, mother of the late Pte Manix Armstrong, and her family who are responsible for original idea for this memorial.

And now, it is my great pleasure to officially unveil this memorial.

Thank you.

ENDS




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