Ireland: United Nations Peacekeeping

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is celebrated each year on 29 May. It was designated by the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 57/129 on 11 December 2002 and first celebrated in 2003. It is intended to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.
The date marks the anniversary of the creation of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in 1948 to monitor the ceasefire after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Day is marked with official ceremonies at the United Nations building in New York and is observed around the world, and often countries will honour their own peacekeepers abroad, but the U.N. also organises festivals, discussion forums and memorials in cooperation with local and national groups.
Reinforcing the universally accepted idea that U.N. peacekeeping forces operate in the spirit of the Nobel Prize, in 1988 the ‘impartial soldiers’ of United Nations Peacekeeping Forces were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Ireland: United Nations Peacekeeping
The Republic of Ireland became a member of the United Nations in 1955. In 1958 its Defence forces provided troops in the form of unarmed observers to their first United Nations mission, UNOGIL, in Lebanon. Since then the Defence Forces have had a continuous presence on U.N. peacekeeping missions. Many of Ireland’s ‘impartial soldiers’ have lost their lives in the cause of peace. In commemoration services at home they are remembered with ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the children of God’.
The main missions to which Ireland has contributed are ONUC (Congo 1960-1964), UNFICYP (Cyprus 1964-) and UNIFIL (Lebanon 1978-200l). During the 1990s Defence Forces peacekeepers served in many parts of the world. Since 1980 Defence Forces personnel have served in Central America (Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua), Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Namibia, Western Sahara, Somalia, Haiti and East Timor.
In 1993 a U.N. Training School was established as one of the constituent schools of the Defence Forces Military College to conduct courses and seminars on peacekeeping drawing on experience gained by Irish peacekeeping soldiers in various parts of the world. A registered charity of Irish U.N Veterans Association was founded in 1989.
In line with its commitment to United Nations peacekeeping, Irish troops are to return to Lebanon following a request by the United Nations approved by the Irish Dail. A first group of ninety Defence Forces will depart on 23 May 2011 to be joined by the main body of 440 peacekeepers at the end of June. The troops will be deployed close to the Israeli border with Lebanon and serve alongside peacekeeping soldiers from Finland.
Ita Marguet
Note: Acknowledgement is given to sources used in preparation of this text. It follows published articles on United Nations and Ireland: Prophetic Image (2004), Ireland and United Nations: Sixtieth Anniversary (2005), National Day of Commemoration: Ireland and United Nations (2010), Irish U.N. Veterans Association: U.N. Peacekeepers (2010).