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United Nations

United Nations armoured vehicle

In the second half of the 20th century, Ireland provided troops and equipment for UN missions to troublespots such as Lebanon and the Congo.

Ireland joined the United Nations in 1955 and since 1958 has been involved continuously in peacekeeping duties throughout the world. Since 1960, Ireland has committed armed contingents at different times to the Congo, Cyprus, Somalia, the Sinai and the Lebanon, among others.

The United Nations gallery at the Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition examines the role played by these Irish men and women in the cause of world peace over the last 50 years.

Since 1958 personnel of the Irish Defence Forces have been involved as observers throughout the world and since 1960, with the exception of a four-year period between 1974 and 1978, armed contingents have been at the service of the United Nations.

Peacekeeping Operations

Peacekeeping operations involve unarmed or lightly armed personnel to maintain peace and international security and to resolve disputes normally with the consent of the conflicting parties.

There are two main types of operation:

  • Military Observations Missions which are manned by unarmed observers

  • Peacekeeping Force Missions which are manned by armed contingents and placed under the command of the United Nations

How Peacekeeping Missions Operate

When a United Nations Member state, or the Secretary General, proposes the establishment of a peacekeeping force, three basic conditions normally apply. They are only established with the consent of the country or countries involved. The proposal must enjoy the broad support of the international community.

Member states must be ready to volunteer personnel. In all areas of conflict United Nations peacekeepers have an impartial role.

The Peacekeeper

Because peacekeeping operations are established in areas of conflict, the task of the peacekeeper is very demanding. Those who serve in peacekeeping forces are only allowed to fire their weapons in self defence. This is necessary to preserve the strict impartiality of the peacekeeper.

Irish peacekeepers are highly regarded among the community of nations because they are drawn from a professional army. Ireland is a neutral country and was never a colonial power. In its role as an aid to the civil authority the Irish soldier is trained to contain rather than exacerbate violence.

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