RTEs Nationwide featured a brief interview/recap segment yesterday covering the Irish Army’s peacekeeping mission to the Congo in 1960. Check it out on the RTE player service. Some fascinating interviews there.
Towards the end of that segment, we see several veterans of the operation standing to attention and saluting the UN memorial. I felt a strange feeling then. A sort of odd pride. Weird, because I had nothing to be proud about personally. This is how I imagine many Americans feel when dealing with their armed forces. I felt an odd desire to thank them for their service, to commemorate them in some fashion.
I mean, a large number of Irish troops have died on the UN missions. Over 50. Shouldn’t we be commemorating them? More than a plaque or a stone memorial hidden away in some army base.
I’m not proposing some kind of national holiday here, but can’t we set aside a time for remembering our fallen UN soldiers? More than the occasional anniversary? The Congo soldiers did truly amazing things and most Irish people don’t know about them. Perhaps the annual Easter Rising parade celebrations should be expanded to cover the history of our armed forces to the present day in some fashion? Something to think about as we approach 2016.
Also in that program was a brief segment on the Irish Air Corps and the brief existence of a jet fighter wing in the seventies. I will defend the IDFs right to exist till I die, but even I must concede that giving Ireland a jet fighter patrol was an extraordinary waste of money. Out of date jets too.