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SPEECH BY MR. WILLIE O'DEA, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE AT THE REVIEW OF 93rd INFANTRY BATTALION DUE TO LEAVE ON PEACEKEEPING DUTY WITH UNMIL

Custume Barracks Athlone 5th May 2005

Secretary-General, Chief of Staff, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and members of 93rd Infantry Battalion.

I am delighted to be back in Custume Barracks today to review the 420 personnel from the 4th Western Brigade who will shortly be travelling to Liberia to participate in the UNMIL peacekeeping mission - a mission comprising some 14,850 military personnel drawn from 48 countries.

Our Defence Forces have been an essential component of UNMIL since it was established just over 18 months ago. During this time they have performed with outstanding courage, professionalism and humanity.

Liberia is just the latest in a long list of countries to have benefited from our participation in UN peacekeeping missions. For close to half a century, the Irish Defence Forces have never hesitated to move into some of the world's most dangerous trouble spots. This is particularly appreciated here in Athlone as many of those involved in the events at Jadotville came from Custume barracks.

Their contribution to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo will be recognised with the erection of a memorial plaque here in Athlone later this year and the commissioning of portraits for the United Nations Training School in the Curragh.

In Liberia, Ireland is contributing, in a substantive way, to bringing stability to a key region in Africa. We are working to support the establishment of peace, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

We are also ensuring the re-establishment of civil society in the region. The UNMIL mission has seen some significant developments since it commenced at the end of 2003.

The Disarmament, Demobilization, and Re-integration programme has led to over 100,000 fighters turning in their weapons. This is bringing stability and peace to most of Liberia. Since the end of February, fourteen out of the fifteen Liberian provinces have been declared safe for the return of refugees and internally displaced people.

Displaced families are taking the opportunity to return home. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees started repatriating Liberian refugees last October. Refugee agencies expect 340,000 Liberian refugees to return home by the time the repatriation programme ends in December 2007.

The first steps towards free and fair elections in Liberia began last week with the start of a voter registration programme. When it is complete up to 1.5 million Liberians will be registered to elect a new President and Parliament. UNMIL is playing an important part in this process. The success of these programmes is an indication of the substantial progress made since by UNMIL.

While our Defence Forces’ involvement in the mission is a source of great pride to us all, as we have learned only too well, peacekeeping missions are not without their dangers.

This was brought home to us most recently, in November 2003, with the tragic death of Sgt. Derek Mooney in a road accident in Liberia. The safety of Irish personnel serving overseas is always of paramount concern to us all.

Defence Forces personnel serving on all overseas missions are highly trained and equipped with the most modern and effective equipment available. But we are mindful of the dangers you may face in your role as peacekeepers. You will be in all our thoughts and prayers throughout your tour of duty in Liberia.
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Yesterday, at Arbour Hill, the State honoured and remembered those who died in the 1916 Easter Rising. The men and women of 1916 fought for the right of self determination for the people of Ireland.

How proud they would be to see their successor generations protecting the peoples of other small nations and helping them to achieve the peace and freedom we ourselves long sought.

Ireland's willingness to participate in UN peace support missions has been motivated by the firm belief that people everywhere in the world should have the right to live their lives in peace and justice, free from fear.

It is for this reason that the United Nations remains the cornerstone of Ireland's foreign policy. Like most other small nations we see it as the ultimate guarantor of our freedom and our safety.

This was our position when we joined the United Nations in 1955 and it continues to be our policy now. In June 2002, our EU partners acknowledged and recognised this policy of military neutrality in the Seville Declaration. The EU Constitution, in drawing all existing EU Treaties together into one comprehensive document, recognises and protects that position.

This is why peacekeeping missions, like the one you will shortly embark upon, are so important. These are the substantial signs of Ireland's respect for the rule of law in international relations.

It is in this context, and subject to the "triple lock" mechanism of Government, Dáil and U.N. approval, that we considering a United Nations request to allow a small number of Defence Forces personnel to act as military observers in the UN operation in southern Sudan.

Ireland has been strongly supportive of the peace process in Sudan generally and also in the troubled region of Darfur, providing financial support to the African Union mission there as well as seconding an army officer to it.

Ireland has also contributed considerable aid support to Sudan. We will provide €15 million for the recovery and reconstruction of Sudan for the period 2005-2007.
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As all of you will know family support is of vital importance to the success of all overseas missions. For that reason, I am delighted to see that so many of your families and friends have come here today to bid you farewell and safe home.

Finally, I would like to wish the Contingent Commander, Lt. Col. Declan Carbury and all of the members of 93 Infantry Battalion a safe trip and a peaceful and successful mission.

Thank you.
Ends.


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Statement by the Minister for Defence on the International Day of the Peacekeeper 2006, 29/05/06
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Speech by Mr. Willie O’Dea, T.D., Minister for Defence at the review of 95th Infantry Battalion due to leave on peacekeeping duty with UNMIL, 04/05/06
5 May 2005
SPEECH BY MR. WILLIE O'DEA, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE AT THE REVIEW OF 93rd INFANTRY BATTALION DUE TO LEAVE ON PEACEKEEPING DUTY WITH UNMIL, 5th MAY 2005
4 November 2004
Speech by Mr. Willie O'Dea, T.D., Minister for Defence at the Review of 92 Infantry Battalion due to leave on peacekeeping duty with UNMIL, 4 November 2004

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