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Colonel says Army can learn a lot from Ireland's UN forces

By Nick Bramhill

The Irish Defence Forces' extensive experience with United Nations peacekeeping missions has been singled out for praise by a Northern Ireland-born British military chief.

UK defence attaché to Ireland Colonel Max Walker said the Republic's Defence Forces' continuous presence in global peacekeeping operations since 1958 was something the UK "can learn a great deal from".

Col Walker, the first resident attaché in Dublin for more than eight years, was speaking in the latest edition of Signal, the official journal of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, representing officers in Ireland's Defence Forces.

The diplomat, originally from Co Fermanagh, and a veteran of Afghanistan, said bilateral defence relations between the two nations were now stronger than ever due to increased co-operation.

And despite the much smaller scale of the Republic's military infrastructure compared to its United Kingdom counterparts, he said both were starting to reap the benefits from working more closely together.

He said: "In early 2015 a memorandum of understanding was agreed between the UK and Ireland, which identified a range of areas for defence co-operation to our mutual benefit.

"To build on that we have a three-year action plan that provides some detailed direction for co-operation in the land, maritime and air domains and in the area of defence policy.

"Harnessing the experience and knowledge that both nations have can be of massive mutual benefit.

"The UK, for example, can learn a great deal from Ireland in terms of UN experience."

Col Walker said his broad role also included co-ordinating training courses, clearing military overflights, and earlier this summer overseeing the display of the famed Red Arrows at the Bray Airshow in Co Wicklow.

Col Walker added: "We have significant British Legion, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy association membership in Ireland and we play a small supporting role in this area and also with regard to facilitating the already close relationship that UK veterans' organisations share with Irish veterans' organisations, including ONE and IUNVA."

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