Distinguished Service Medal Ceremony ,Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin

Speech by
Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr Paul Kehoe, T.D.


I am delighted to be here in Cathal Brugha Barracks on this special day to award the “Distinguished Service Medal with Honour” to Major General Michael Beary.  This award is for distinguished service characterised by outstanding qualities of leadership, diplomacy and devotion to duty.  These qualities have been best demonstrated by you in your role as Head of Mission and Force Commander in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and as Force Commander of the European Union Mission in Somalia.  Your distinguished service, in these appointments, has made a significant contribution to regional stability and world peace and enhanced the reputation of Ireland and its Defence Forces.

I would like to welcome the family and friends of Major General Beary to the ceremony today. This a proud day for you.  In particular I want to acknowledge Major General Beary’s wife, Maureen, and his children, Eabha (Ava), James and Howard; your support and sacrifice has made possible the achievements we are recognising with the award of a DSM.

For the Beary family the location of today’s ceremony, here in Cathal Brugha Barracks, is of significance.  Three generations of the family have served here, at present Lieutenant Howard Beary, is following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, continuing a proud family tradition that is forever tied to this barracks.

The medal that is being awarded this afternoon was introduced by the Defence Forces in February 1964 and it may be awarded in recognition of individual or associated acts of bravery, courage, leadership, resource or devotion to duty. As befits these characteristics, the medal depicts the legendary warrior Cúchulainn with an upraised sword standing in a war chariot drawn by two horses at the gallop.  In reflecting on what this medal represents, it is fitting that we recall the lifetime of service given by Major General Beary in the service of the State.  

Major General Beary has had a long and distinguished career since he joined the Irish Defence Forces in 1973. 

He has spent a total of 12 years in overseas deployments in various countries, including Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. Since July 2016, Major General Beary has held the prestigious appointment of UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander. It has been over thirty years since an Irish person has held this appointment. 

He brought extensive command and peacekeeping experience to the post, serving with distinction in an appointment, which was not without significant challenge.

Major General Beary brought a powerful combination of military and diplomatic skills and a strategic perspective to bear.  This allowed him to build and sustain collaborative relationships across the senior political and military leadership of both Lebanon and Israel, down to the local communities and civil society representatives as well as with UN partner agencies. 

During his leadership of this multi-national peace keeping operation he brought vision, diplomacy and a positive mind-set towards resolving conflict and disputes, which ensured two years of unpresented calm and stability.

Major General Beary’s service as Head of Mission and Force Commander was underlined to me by Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Jean Pierre Lacroix, when I met him in Vienna at the EU Defence Minister’s Meeting last week.  In a message he asked me to convey today, Mr Lacroix says:

“the United Nations and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations were privileged to have Major General Michael Beary at the leadership of UNIFIL.  His exemplary dedication and integrity during his tenure as the Head of Mission and Force Commander were integral to the achievements accomplished by the Mission.

His strong leadership, commitment to core peacekeeping values and principles and pro-active approach enabled UNIFIL to carry out its important mandate during a particularly challenging period.  The Security Council has recognized those efforts and the key contribution of the Mission in maintaining the calm in Lebanon and the broader region and preventing renewed conflict. 

I would like to highlight, in particular, Major General Beary’s commitment and persistence in maintaining and encouraging the ongoing engagement between the parties on issues critical to stability along the Blue Line.  This was important not only for preventing tensions which might lead to serious consequences, but also for overcoming mistrust and building mutual confidence.  This is a testament to Major General Beary’s qualities as a trusted and effective peacekeeper and mediator, which are indispensable qualities for a leader of any successful United Nations peacekeeping mission.   

On behalf of all his friends and colleagues in UNIFIL, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the United Nations family, let me convey to Major General Beary, the Government of Ireland and its distinguished Armed Forces our gratitude for their unwavering commitment and support to United Nations peacekeeping.”

This year, as many of you are aware, marks the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s participation in UN Missions and the 40th Anniversary of our participation in UNIFIL.  In that regard, Major General Beary’s leadership of the UNIFIL mission stands as a tribute to the fine reputation of Irish peacekeepers going back six decades and to the skills and attributes that he brought to the role.

The UNIFIL mission is a force for stability.  This is thanks to the great work of the military and civilian personnel, and the effective cooperation with UNIFIL’s main strategic partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

It is also important to acknowledge and pay tribute to the troops on the ground who participate in overseas missions.  Without their contribution the UN could not undertake these missions and many more lives would be lost.

Since the mission was first established in 1978, Ireland has a long and continuous record of contributing to UNIFIL, whether by way of major infantry deployments, force protection elements, or staff officers. 

UNIFIL represents Ireland’s largest overseas deployment, with some 370 personnel currently serving in Lebanon as part of an Irish/Finnish Battalion.   Ireland’s participation in this mission demonstrates our strong support for the role of the United Nations in international peacekeeping. 

Major General Beary was appointed as Commander of the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Somalia from August 2011 to February 2013. 

He was central to the comprehensive multi-dimensional approach adopted by the European Union as it endeavoured to bring the failed state of Somalia back from the brink of disaster. 

It is fair to say that he rescued this EU mission that was seriously in danger of failing.  As Mission Commander of EUTM Somalia he directly contributed to the strengthening of the Somali Federal Government and the institutions of Somalia through the training of Somali Armed Forces.  Under his leadership the Council of the European Union approved the transfer of the Mission from its initial location in Uganda to Mogadishu, the first such deployment in a generation.  Major General Beary initiated the planning process, which led to the deployment of EUTM in Mogadishu in early 2014.

The EU Training Mission in Somalia was launched in April 2010, to train security forces of the Somali Transitional Federal Government.  Ireland contributed Defence Forces personnel to this mission from April 2010 until April 2014. 

During this period EUTM Somalia contributed to the training of over 4,000 Somali soldiers from the Somali National army with a focus on the training of Non-Commissioned Officers, Junior Officers, specialists and trainers. 

The United Nations represents the brightest hope for peace in the world and, over the past sixty years, we have matched our commitment to the UN and to international peace and stability with our deeds.  Irish men and women have fought and died for the cause of peace in the service of others.  Ireland’s total commitment to the aims and ideals of the United Nations has been a consistent feature of our membership. 

Today, I thank Major General Beary on behalf of the Irish Government for his valuable contribution to UN missions and to the Irish Defence Forces.

However, such service does not come without sacrifice.  That sacrifice falls most heavily on the family, with a father far away for extended periods. 

In that regard, I would like to again publicly recognise and sincerely thank Major General Beary’s wife and his family for their contribution, a contribution without which Major General Beary could not have undertaken these important duties. 

On a personal note, I want to express my own appreciation to you Major General Beary for the generous hospitality that you always showed me on my visits to Lebanon and UNIFIL.  On a professional level, you were always forthright and informative, your insights enhanced my understanding of the region and contributed significantly to the decisions that both I and our Government had to take. On a personal level, our meetings were always warm and enjoyable, making visits to Naqoura a highlight of my time in Lebanon.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone connected with the organisation of this morning’s ceremony and for marking this special occasion in such a fine manner.

A warm thank you to the Army Number One Band under the baton of Captain Fergal Carroll for providing the music today.

Thank you all very much and I hope you enjoy the remainder of the day.