Friday, January 09, 2004

Irish Peacekeeping

Via Frank McGahon, I learn about something that isn't mentioned at all in the British or American press - the major role the Irish army is playing in keeping the peace in Liberia (also see here.)

The Minister for Defence, Mr. Michael Smith T.D., has praised the actions of the Irish members of the United Nations Mission to Liberia (UNMIL) in securing the release of 35 people held captive by renegade Government of Liberia forces, in an operation in North Eastern Liberia yesterday.

The Irish Special Operations Task Group (SOTG), which forms part of Ireland's contribution to UNMIL, was tasked by the U.N. to patrol in Nimba County as part of a pathfinding mission. The patrol, made up of members of the Army Ranger Wing was inserted in the patrol area by UN helicopter. The patrol learned from local civilians that a number of people were being held captive in a 20 foot container, by renegade forces,. As a result of investigations by the SOTG patrol, 35 persons being held by Liberian renegades under the command of Commander "Prince" were released. Commander Prince and his deputy were detained and are being held in a local police station secured by SOTG troops.

Conditioned as I have been to think of Ireland's military posture as one of splendid isolation, it is good to see that it is taking an active share of the burden of policing the world's troublespots. What is even better is that Irish participation in the UN peacekeeping force has not taken the typical guise of UN "peacekeepers" passively standing by and watching as massacres of civilians go on before their eyes - as has occurred in Bosnia, Rwanda and the Congo, to name but a few occasions.