Nato chief praises Irish troops
Nato's Secretary General has paid tribute to the brave, dedicated and selfless Irish men and women who have taken part in its missions.
About 440 Irish soldiers are serving overseas on United Nations (UN) operations, with a small number in Afghanistan and Kosovo with Nato.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Ireland has supported and improved the overall quality and readiness of other nations' forces, which he hoped could be expanded and enhanced in the future.
"Some of you might well be asking why Ireland, a country that prides itself on its neutrality, should be sending its young people to participate in Nato-led missions," he said.
"Shared values, shared ideals, and shared commitment to the United Nations are three reasons. But there are others too. "By engaging with Nato you get a voice at the table where the decisions are made. You get full political transparency and oversight.
"You get a military command and control system that is tried, tested, and trusted.
"And you get to operate alongside Nato allies and partners from across the world that use the same procedures and practices."
The Secretary General touched down in Dublin to meet Ireland's political leaders and European Union defence ministers during an informal meeting marking Ireland's presidency of the EU.
He said while Ireland is not a member of Nato, it is an important partner and has contributed to its missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
"I want to thank the brave, dedicated and selfless Irish men and women who have participated in those missions," he said.