Tributes poured in from around the world yesterday after the Defence Forces announced the death on Saturday of Lieutenant General William ‘Bill’ Callaghan, 94, who was originally from Buttevant in Co Cork.
Known affectionately as ‘The Bull’, Lt Gen Callaghan had the unique distinction of holding the two most important UN appointments perhaps in the world during a tumultuous period in the 1970s and 80s.
Lt Gen Callaghan, who joined the army in 1939, was the head of the UN’s Truce Supervision Organisation from two 12-month stints in 1978 and 1986.
However, it was his appointment as Force Commander of the 6,000-strong multinational UN Interim Force in Lebanon from 1981 to 1986, that gained Lt Gen Callaghan international recognition.
In an interview in 1982, he said: “Peacekeeping is not about firing shots. It’s about not firing — and stopping those who are. We must look for trouble at the four points of the compass and then we look behind our backs.”
Renowned for his unorthodox approach to negotiations — he once dispatched cases of Irish potatoes to an Israeli general as a peace offering — it earned him the trust of key figures such as Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat.
Lt Gen Callaghan was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal from the Irish Defence Forces, as well as the French Legion d’Honneur and the Lebanese National Order of the Cedar.
The army today awards the Lt Gen William Callaghan Sword to the cadet who displays the best tactical ability during their officer training.
President Michael D Higgins praised Lt Gen Callaghan’s contributions to Ireland and the world.
“His steadfast commitment to advancing peace and prosperity in the Middle East and his leadership throughout his career was recognised by all those working for international peace,” said the President.