TEARS flowed at the weekend as a memorial was unveiled to honour all Irish soldiers who have died on UN overseas missions.
Hundreds of people attended the unveiling of a ‘wall of remembrance’ built just outside Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Fermoy, Co Cork.
It bears the names of all 90 people – 85 soldiers, four field service officers and one garda – who have died on UN missions over the last 50 years.
It has been described as the country’s most complete list of deaths on UN missions.
All the names are inscribed on six large black Chinese granite tablets, set into a wall above a paved patio area with seats. The memorial cost an estimated €20,000.
It was unveiled by Michael Ryan, a UN veteran who was seriously injured in an explosion while serving in the Lebanon.
The first name on the memorial is C/S Grant who died in the Congo on October 3, 1960. The last name is FSO P O’Donnell who also died in the Congo on September 2, 2005.
It also includes the names of two soldiers whose remains have never been recovered. Trooper Patrick Mullins, who died in the Congo on September 15, 1961, is officially classified as “dead presumed to have been killed”.
He was based in Fermoy’s Fitzgerald Camp and was just 18 when he was killed in a shell attack on his armoured carrier while on night-time patrol.
Pte Kevin Joyce, who last served in the Lebanon on April 27, 1981 has been classified as “missing in action presumed dead”.
But the memorial is also dedicated to all who served overseas and to all who served in Fitzgerald Camp since it became home to the 1st Motor Squadron in 1948.
It bears the names of 24 soldiers who served in the camp and who died while in the service. The memorial was organised by Post 25, the Fermoy branch of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association.
The list of names was painstakingly researched over the last six months by memorial committee chairman John O’Mahony, who served with the 35th Battalion in the Congo in 1961, and noted military historian and former army NCO Paudie McGrath.
Mr O’Mahony said: “We felt that given the sacrifice these people made, it was only right that there be something fitting to remember them.
“But it is important to note that while the names of those who died are there, this memorial is dedicated to all who served overseas.”
One of the country’s top soldiers, Lt Gen (Retd) Pat Nash DSM, who has just returned from leading the EU-UN peacekeeping mission in Chad, was the keynote speaker and paid tribute to the organisers.
He said the “military family” has the same experiences as a normal family, including death.
“When it’s sudden and tragic, as is often the case for those who soldier abroad, it can be very traumatic,” he said.
Ireland became a member of the United Nations in 1955. In 1958 Irish army officers served as observers in the Lebanon. When the Congo crisis began in 1960, the UN requested Irish troops. It was the first time Ireland had sent troops overseas in battalion strength.
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