Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar pays tribute to Irish killed on UN service

The Taoiseach is in New York with Simon Coveney to launch Ireland’s election campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Leo Varadkar has paid tribute to the members of the Irish Defence Forces who lost their lives while on United Nations service.

The Taoiseach was taking part in a ceremony to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations on Monday.

Mr Varadkar is in New York with Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney to launch Ireland’s election campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

There are currently more than 640 members of the Irish Defence Forces deployed on UN peacekeeping missions.

Eighty-eight Irish personnel have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace Leo Varadkar

Speaking at the UN Peacekeeping Memorial Ceremony, Mr Varadkar said: “We recognise the sacrifices that each and every one of them, and their families, have made in answering the call of duty.

“Some never made it home. Eighty-eight Irish personnel have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace. It is appropriate at this time to remember and honour all who have lost their lives.”

Mr Varadkar said if Ireland secures a two-year term in 2021, it will place the country at the heart of UN decision-making on international peace, security and development.

He added: “Since Ireland first joined the United Nations in 1955, we have made a sustained contribution to the work of the international community in meeting the international challenges of peace and security, human rights and development.

“While each of these priorities has a high profile and widespread public support in Ireland, our contribution to UN peacekeeping operations enjoys a special place in the hearts of the Irish people.

“Since the first Irish troops were deployed on UN peacekeeping operations in 1958, not a single day has passed without Irish participation in UN peace support operations.

“Over the past sixty years, tens of thousands of Irish women and men have worn the blue helmets on UN peacekeeping operations. We are as proud of the blue helmet as we are of the harp or the shamrock.”

U2 front man Bono and former Irish president Mary Robinson are also backing the bid.

On Sunday night, UN ambassadors were invited to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden as part of the bid to win the seat.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney will officially launch Ireland’s campaign on Monday night at UN headquarters with a special event celebrating Irish food, music heritage and culture.

More than 400 UN diplomats and other guests have been invited to attend the reception on the UN’s North Lawn, beside the “Arrival” sculpture, by Irish artist John Behan, which was gifted to the UN by Ireland in 2000.

Ireland will be competing for one of two seats available for the 2021-22 term with Canada and Norway.

The Taoiseach said he does not underestimate the competition for the seat, but believes Ireland can win.

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