An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D, and the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe T.D, today paid tribute to Irish peacekeepers currently deployed overseas under the constraints of COVID-19.
Today, the 18th annual International Day of UN Peacekeeping, nations across the world come together to pay tribute to the thousands of uniformed and civilian personnel who have served and continue to serve with pride and distinction in UN peacekeeping missions.
This year, a particular focus is being paid to the role played by female peacekeepers under the theme “Women in peacekeeping: A key to peace”.
Welcoming this year’s theme, the Taoiseach said:
“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.
“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 two 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.
“If Ireland is successful in our campaign to gain a seat on the UN Security Council, we will bring our experience to bear in sustaining the peacekeeping and peacebuilding roles of the Council.
“Today is an opportunity to pay tribute to the members of the Irish Defence Forces carrying out this critical work amidst the constraints of COVID-19. And I want to highlight in particular the central role of our female peacekeepers, including Brigadier General Maureen O’Brien, who is currently serving in the role of Acting Force Commander with the UNDOF mission in Syria.”
In paying tribute to the role played by Irish peacekeepers, Minister Kehoe remembered the peacekeepers who lost their lives on deployment.
“Currently we have 517 brave women and men of the Defence Forces serving overseas in peacekeeping missions in various parts of the world. Since our first deployment, Irish Defence Forces personnel have completed some 70,000 tours of duty. The tradition of UN Peacekeeping, of which we have participated in for over 60 years, is about saving lives and ensuring others can enjoy the gift of peace.
“The Irish people are justifiably proud of the work carried out by Irish peacekeepers in regions that for too long have suffered under a cloud of conflict.
“However, we will also never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives while overseas. They and their families are forever in our thoughts.”
The Minister continued:
“This year is the twentieth anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security, which put women’s’ rights and gender equality at the centre of global, regional and national peace and security efforts. Ensuring that the WPS agenda is implemented is therefore a timely shared priority across the common efforts of the UN, EU and NATO.
“The advancement of the Women Peace and Security agenda in peacekeeping operations is an area in which Ireland has taken a proactive role. The promotion of a strong gender perspective is a key element in all our peacekeeping operations. The presence of women contributes greatly with resolving conflict and connecting with local populations. It broadens the skills sets available within a peacekeeping mission and importantly provides role models for women, both at home and abroad. Equitable, durable and sustainable peace and reconciliation cannot be built without women at the table.”