Irish troops and UN missions

 

Sir, – Although Edward Horgan (Letters, June 18th) is correct to observe that “Ireland is a small neutral country with an Army . . . appropriate to our security and economic priorities”, he perhaps misinterprets the true nature of neutrality, and the necessity of Irish contributions to UN peacekeeping. It is somewhat ironic that he counts our nation’s current contribution to UNDOF as a supposed example of inappropriate utility of our military instrument, while concurrently acknowledging our Defence Forces’ historical contribution to what he cites as more “genuine” UN peacekeeping missions. Mr Horgan can hardly, after all, present himself a champion for Irish neutrality when he so vehemently opposes supposed “illegal annexation[s]” and “neo-colonial exploitation”. Maintenance of this selective and contradictory outlook unfortunately extracts credibility from his otherwise undoubtedly well-intentioned argument.

A less biased and more neutral outlook regarding the history of, and the current situation within, the Golan Heights would serve Mr Horgan well. Indeed, it is difficult to offer an example of another UN peacekeeping mission that affords Ireland the opportunity to truly display her neutrality than that of UNDOF.

Irish peacekeepers are a key enabler in allowing the UN to continue its internationally mandated suspension of conflict between two warring states. This mission, afforded legitimacy under the charter of international law, relieves an area that is continuously blighted with inter and intra-state conflict, of additional violence.

UNDOF has guaranteed the peoples of a geopolitical minefield relative stability for the past 45 years, and its existence has indirectly prevented the humanitarian catastrophe of the Syrian civil war enveloping the homes of approximately 100,000 people.

As personally distasteful as any single observer might find the controlling governmental regimes that represent these otherwise warring nations, Irish citizens can retain great pride in the fact that her sons and daughters impartially maintain an internationally mandated peace in so potentially volatile a conflict zone. Is such a contribution not the epitome of neutral peacekeeping?

Does not study of our own national history instruct us that such an input is both viable and obligatory?

It seems a shame that our continuing, valuable, and essential commitment to UNDOF should be belittled by selective disdain for particular parties to belligerence.

Regarding the mission in Mali, Mr Horgan again, ironically, betrays bias when questioning whether or not a neutral country should be intervening in a civil war.

Would selectively determining which UN mandated missions are “genuine” and which are “neo-colonial exploitations” amount to anything less than an absolute abrogation of neutrality? I suggest not.

Although the term “neutrality” remains somewhat ambiguous, Ireland’s deployment of her peacekeepers has historically been, and is presently, a genuine extension of our nation’s aversion to cruelty, and our commitment to improving the humanitarian situation in conflict zones.

As such, our nation can express a commitment to international law and justice without preferring our own, or any other nation’s, ambitions. Subjective opinionising regarding which UN missions are genuine, and which are not, is counterproductive after the mandate, and remains thus, manifestly, un-neutral. Yours, etc,

SEÁN HANLEY,

Pocitos,

Montevideo,

Uruguay.

Sir, – For the record, contrary to what a letter writer’s views (June 18th), Irish troops did not prevent the secession of Katanga during the move to Congolese independence. They sought to do so, acting against mercenaries acting for local and US, UK, and Belgian mining interests, and were taken prisoners of war. A number of Irish soldiers were killed in the Congo, by indigenous people. International pressure ended the secession, and Congo went into civil war until 1965, when Mobutu, one of sub-Saharan Africa’s more grandiose tyrants and kleptomaniacs, secured control, with US backing. US bases, at present, are proliferating across the continent, but Katanga – when Irish troops acted in an overtly anti-colonial role offers no precedent for Irish involvement in Mali, while any suggestion that a European war against terrorism might be won there is fanciful. – Yours, etc,

EOIN DILLON,

Mount Brown,

Dublin 8.