Recognition for Defence Forces personnel overseas for Christmas

This year marks 60 years of unbroken UN peacekeeping service for Defence Forces

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s first involvement in a United Nations overseas mission, when a small team were deployed to Lebanon in 1958. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s first involvement in a United Nations overseas mission, when a small team were deployed to Lebanon in 1958. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Minister for State with responsibility for defence Paul Kehoe has paid tribute to members of the Defence Forces serving overseas on peacekeeping missions over the Christmas period.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s first involvement in a United Nations overseas mission, when a small team were deployed to Lebanon in 1958.

The Defence Forces’ six decades of involvement in overseas UN peacekeeping missions is the longest unbroken period of service in the international organisation.

In a statement on Christmas Eve, Mr Kehoe said Ireland’s long standing participation in UN missions came at a “personal cost” for individual service members. Personnel “must be away from families and friends for extended periods, which is particularly difficult at this time of year,” he said.

“Without their commitment and dedication Ireland’s strong tradition of service overseas, under the auspices of the United Nations, would not be possible,” Mr Kehoe said. The junior Minister also paid tribute to members of the Defence Forces who were on deployment in Ireland during the holiday period.

Over the course of this year, 1,692 Defence Forces personnel served in overseas UN missions and operations, across 14 countries. These included deployments in Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Western Sahara, Congo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mali, and Kosovo. Defence Forces personnel were also involved in a mission in the Mediterranean Sea.

There is on average over 600 personnel serving on overseas deployments at a given time.

“UN peacekeeping operations enjoy a special place in the hearts of the Irish people. Ireland has always accepted the obligations that arise from being part of the world community,” Mr Kehoe said.

In June earlier this year, a State ceremony was held in Dublin Castle to mark the Defence Forces record of 60 years of overseas service. The ceremony also commemorated the 87 peacekeepers who have lost their lives overseas.

Ireland first deployed Defence Forces troops on a mission in Lebanon, three years after gaining UN membership. The mission, titled the United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon (UNOGIL), was tasked with ensuring there was no illegal infiltration of personnel, or the supply of arms, across the border between Lebanon and Syria.