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Wednesday 23rd April 2008

During his visit to Kosovo Minister O' Dea addressed Irish Troops at an informal meeting at Camp Clarke.

Chief of Staff, Secretary General, Distinguished Guests, men and women of the 38th Infantry Group. I want to thank Brig Gen Gerry Hegarty, Colonel Tom Rigney, Lt Col Michael Murphy and all the Irish personnel here for the extremely warm welcome afforded to all of us on this visit.

I am delighted to be back here in Camp Clarke and being able to see, close up, what you are doing here to help bring stability and progress to this country.

What you do is turn our commitment to progress in the newly independent Kosovo - and in the wider region - into reality. It is a particular tribute to our reputation and experience that we hold the lead nation role in the Multinational Task Force Centre. I know that our exercise of this leadership role in Kosovo has been greatly appreciated here in Kosovo and has been hugely beneficial to our Defence Forces – at all levels.

Your support and assistance of a range of local projects such as the repair works to the Peshter School or the building of a new playground at the Petrovic School are only two examples of how you regard your role as more than a military/policing one.

I am very mindful of the great sacrifices you make here. I understand how much you all miss your homes, your families and your loved ones.

I know the dangers you face and the hardships you endure as part of your mission. We are committed to doing whatever we can to making your time here as safe and agreeable as we possibly can.

Your presence here is a great source of pride to Ireland. It is also a reminder that we, as a newly successful and prosperous country, have our obligations; particularly in the international arena.

As you will know the public debate on the Reform Treaty has just begun back at home. At the heart of the Treaty is the recognition that the European Union is becoming a force for good in the wider world.

It has a role to play, on the international stage, in ensuring peace, prosperity and justice in furtherance of the aims of the United Nations and the UN Charter.

Your participation in this particular operation, and indeed to the other major operations launched under ESDP, is a continuation of our long and honourable tradition of supporting international peace and security.

It is a tradition whose 50th anniversary we celebrate this year. Over those 50 years of overseas service the Defence Forces have brought great honour on Ireland. Your committted and dedicated service in overseas missions reflects well on the nation as a whole.

I am proud to be with you today to tell you how deeply we value what you do and how enormously proud we are of you.

I wish you all well for the rest of your tour of duty here. I want to wish you all continued safety here in Kosovo and a safe return to your families in Ireland.


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