Former President Receives Peace Award

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As published in the December 2019 /January 2020 issue of An Cosantóir Magazine

By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos by Armn Sam Gibney

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland  (1990-1997), was presented with the Tipperary International Peace Award for 2018, at the Tipperary Peace Convention 2019, at a ceremony held in the Excel Centre, Tipperary Town, on 7 November 2019.

Seán Cosgrave, IUNVA Post 24 salutes former president Mary Robinson as honorary secretary of the Tipperary Peace Convention Martin Quinn accompanies her.

As Irish president she was also supreme commander of the Defence Forces, and as such would have inspected many Irish soldiers serving around the world and at home. An honour guard from Post 24 (Clonmel) and Post 4 (Tipperary) of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) greeted Mrs Robinson. The honour guard was handed over by Seán Cosgrave (Post 24), who served 11 times in Lebanon during his lengthy service.

Mrs Robinson has held the positions of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), UN Special Envoy on the Great Lakes in Africa & Democratic Republic of the Congo (2013-2014), and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change (2014-2015), and is the current chair of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders, established by Nelson Mandela in 2007, who work together for peace, justice and human rights.

Guests at the convention included members of the Dáil and Seanad, EU and international diplomats, local county councillors, senior members of An Garda Síochána, Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM and Captain (NS) Brian Fitzgerald.

On entering the theatre Mrs Robinson, who was accompanied by her husband, Nicholas, was greeted with a standing ovation.

MC for the occasion, Martin Quinn, honorary secretary of the Tipperary Peace Convention, regaled the audience with stories Mrs Robinson’s previous visits to Tipperary during her presidency.

In introducing this year’s award recipient, Martin said that Mary Robinson had “rocked the system around the world over the last number of decades”. He referred to her work as a politician, becoming the first female president of Ireland, her many roles with the UN, her great charitable work, and her continuous efforts to highlight climate change around the globe.

On receiving her award, Mary Robinson said she was “very honoured and very humbled” to accept the award. She went on to name some of the previous recipients before adding: “There is something special about this award.”

The former president also invited the members of the IUNVA honour guard to receive a round of applause from the packed auditorium, saying: “I inspected many a guard of honour as president – but this one was special as it was made up of Irish peacekeepers, of whom I am very proud.”

For more information on the Tipperary International Peace Award and Peace Convention visit: www.tipperarypeace.ie

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

59th Annual Niemba Ceremonies 2019

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As published in the December 2019 /January 2020 issue of An Cosantóir Magazine

Report & Photos by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

Cuimhnímis ‘Let Us Remember’

On Saturday 9 November 2019, the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (ONE) held their 59th Annual Niemba Ceremony in Cathal Brugha Barracks to honour our comrades who lost their lives in the service of peace at Niemba, Congo on the 8th November 1960. Following on from last year’s ceremony, it was held indoor, starting with 12 noon mass in the Garrison Church. This was followed by a well thought out wreath laying ceremony. VIPs included the Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, military attachés, Defence Forces Assistant Chief of Staff Brig Gen Peter O’Halloran, Lt Col Seán Ó Fátharta, OC 7 Inf Bn and Cathal Brugha Bks, along with representatives from RACO, PDFORRA, RDFRA, ONE, IUNVA, ARCO, with other veterans’ associations, Congo veterans and the family members of deceased Congo veterans.

‘A’ Coy, 33rd Inf Bn. Photo: South Dublin County Libraries / WM_4713

On 8 November 1960, an 11-man Irish UN Peacekeeping patrol from 33 Inf Bn who were serving with the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) were ambushed by over 100 Baluba tribesmen at Niemba. This was the first-time members of Óglaigh na hÉireann were involved in a battle since the founding of the state in 1922.

Assistant Chief of Staff, Brig Gen Peter O’Halloran lays a wreath in memory of our fallen comrades.

The patrol was under the command of Lt Kevin Gleeson (Carlow), accompanied by his NCOs of Sgt Hugh Gaynor (Dublin), Cpl Peter Kelly (Dublin), and Cpl Liam Dougan (Dublin), the rest of the patrol was made up of Pte Matthew Farrell (Dublin), Tpr Thomas Fennell (Dublin), Tpr Anthony Browne (Dublin), Pte Michael McGuinn (Carlow), Pte Gerard Killeen (Dublin), Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick (Dublin) and Pte Tom Kenny (Dublin).

It is believed that the Baluba tribesmen thought they were attacking European mercenaries who were hired by the breakaway Katanga province. The Balbua tribe had not supported the secession as several villages had been burned by the mercenaries. It is said that the small Irish patrol who were trying to keep the bridge over River Luweyeye open killed around 25 Baluba tribesmen, but it was destroyed. Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick and Pte Tom Kenny were the only two peacekeepers to survive the massacre, while Tpr Anthony Browne being posthumously awarded An Bonn Seirbhíse Dearscna (The Distinguished Service Medal – with Honour) for the heroic action he showed during battle.

In 2006, The Irish Times quoted the then Minister for Defence Mr Willie O’Dea said he wholeheartedly recognised and acknowledged that, “both Pte Kenny, particularly in view of the serious wounds and injuries he sustained, and Pte Fitzpatrick survived a horrific encounter with hostile forces, displaying courage, fortitude and tenacity in order to survive until finally rescued.” He commended them both, “for the selfless service they have given their country.”

Cuimhnímis ‘Let Us Remember’

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.