Fine Gael Spokesman for Defence, David Stanton T.D., has today (Friday) paid tribute to the Defence Forces on the 50th anniversary of the first deployment of Irish peacekeepers to the Congo, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf in the pursuit of peace.
“Irish peacekeepers are highly respected and valued across the globe and they have acquired an outstanding reputation for peacekeeping that has also greatly enhanced Ireland’s broader international standing. I would like to pay tribute to the soldiers who represented Ireland with such bravery and professionalism in the Congo and on all missions since and also to their families on whose support the Defence Forces so heavily depend.
“The peacekeeping record of the Defence Forces has contributed hugely to Ireland’s positive reputation within the United Nations where we have long since punched above our weight. The mission to the Congo was the first significant step in acquiring that reputation and Ireland is now seen as a leader in the conduct of peace operations across the globe.
“The mission to the Congo resulted in massive advances within the Defence Forces in terms of experience, training and equipment and prepared them for the many difficult missions that followed.
“The reality is that Ireland must maintain at least a battalion level mission overseas on a consistent basis, otherwise the level of expertise within the Defence Forces will inevitably diminish. Training is essential but operational service is critical. Overseas service is the lifeblood of any military organisation.
“At present the number of troops overseas is at its lowest level in decades. I am calling on the Government, while taking account of fiscal realities, to ensure that the time lapse between the withdrawal of troops from Chad and deployment to the next battalion sized mission is kept to a minimum.
“Finally, I congratulate the men and women of the Defence Forces on today’s significant anniversary. They represent the people of Ireland with admirable courage and professionalism both at home and abroad and deserve our unqualified support in the conduct of their duties.”
Contact: Feargal Purcell, 087 4157150