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Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., UN Peacekeeping Memorial Ceremony New York, 2 July 2018


Excellencies, Tánaiste, Minister Kehoe, Vice Admiral Mellet, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for joining me this morning, as we mark 60 years of Ireland’s contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations.

This event follows an official State ceremony last week in Dublin Castle. Today we are here at the home of the United Nations, beside the Peace Bell, a symbol of the universal hope for peace.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in 1963, one of my forebears, Seán Lemass, told the world that the solemn duty of the United Nations was to harmonize and control the forces of politics, science and technology in the interests of peace and the betterment of humanity as a whole.

The United Nations is the brightest hope of the world and over the past sixty years we have matched our words with our deeds. Irish men and women have fought and died for the cause of peace and 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. We accept the obligations that arise from being part of the world community.

Today the Irish Government is proud to mark a notable anniversary for the Irish Defence Forces, and indeed for the people of Ireland.

Since Ireland first joined the United Nations in 1955, we have made a sustained contribution to the work of the international community in meeting the international challenges of peace and security, human rights and development.

While each of these priorities has a high profile and widespread public support in Ireland, our contribution to UN peacekeeping operations enjoys a special place in the hearts of the Irish people.

Since the first Irish troops first were deployed on UN peacekeeping operations in 1958, not a single day has passed without Irish participation in UN peace support operations.

Over the past sixty years, tens of thousands of Irish women and men have worn the blue helmets on UN peacekeeping operations. We are as proud of the blue helmet as we are of the harp or the shamrock.

Every village, town and neighbourhood in our small country has sent men and women to serve on United Nations peacekeeping missions. Everyone knows someone who has served in the UN, if not several. Peacekeeping has become a part of our national identity.

Over the past sixty years, our military, police and civilian personnel have served in dozens of countries around the globe, from Lebanon, Cyprus, the Balkans, East Timor, Liberia and the Congo, to name a few.

Today, there are more than 640 Irish Defence Forces personnel deployed on UN peacekeeping missions, including more than 370 women and men on the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon, a mission that we have been contributing to for 40 years now.

We see service with the UN as a noble and important calling. Our men and women represent our country with professionalism, dedication and courage. We are proud of them and we thank them for their service.

We recognise the sacrifices that each and every one of them, and their families, have made in answering the call of duty.

Some never made it home. 88 Irish personnel have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace. It is appropriate at this time to remember and honour all who have lost their lives.

Our thoughts and prayers today are with those peacekeepers and their families. We are forever in their debt. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anam.

When I visited the UNIFIL mission at Christmas, I saw some of the risks, hazards, and threats that our peacekeeping personnel face on a daily basis.

I also saw the way that our peacekeepers approach their tasks, the security and humanitarian assistance they provide, and the powerful stabilising impact they have on the communities in which they serve.

It is this innate sense of service in support of local communities that defines the Irish approach to peacekeeping.

Last week, in his video message during the State Ceremony in Dublin, the UN Secretary General affirmed Ireland’s valuable contribution to UN peacekeeping operations and also our leadership in the ongoing development of peacekeeping policy and doctrine.

Today I reaffirm that the Irish Government is strongly committed to contributing to and advancing the cause of international peace and security.

Later today, the Tánaiste and I will officially launch Ireland’s campaign for election to the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022.

If successful, we will use our place at the heart of UN decision-making to advance international peace, security and development.

In 2021 we will mark the centenary of Ireland’s independence, when Michael Collins called on Ireland to be ‘a shining light in a dark world’. We will continue to be that light in a dark world.

Ireland may be a small island on the periphery of Europe, but our outlook is global.

Our proud tradition of participation in peacekeeping and crisis management operations demonstrates how we can be a powerful force for peace and stability.

Today we recognise the unwavering courage and devotion to duty of all of our civil and military peacekeepers, most especially those who have lost their lives on the frontline.

To all who have played their part over the last 60 years of peacekeeping, on behalf of the Irish Government, I thank you for your service and.

Go raibh maith agaibh.