It was announced this week that the men and women of the Irish Defence Forces, who have served on UN Peacekeeping duties over the past 60 years, are to receive the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award 2019.
This year, the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Society decided to move the programme forward to June 4, to coincide with the 75th Anniversary of the WW II liberation of Rome and the successful conclusion of the Hugh O’Flaherty inspired Rome Escape Line.
In 2008, the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Society was formed in his home town of Killarney to honour his memory by acknowledging his humanitarian works during the 1930s in Haiti and San Domingo, and the early 1940s during WW II in Rome.
At its first meeting of 2019, the Memorial Committee unanimously decided that it should present the 2019 Humanitarian Award to the members of the Irish Defence Forces, past and present, who have served in UN Peacekeeping Missions overseas for the past 60+ years,
Chair of the O’Flaherty Memorial Society Jerry O’Grady explained.
“To date, 86 members of the Irish Defence Forces have lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping humanitarian missions with the UN,” he said.
“We believe that this immense selfless sacrifice in the name of world peace deserves to be acknowledged in this way and we should all be tremendously proud of our men and women who wear the famous Blue Beret.”
In 1980, Private John O’Mahony 15 Bn. UN Veteran (Retd) from Scartaglin (pictured) served with the Irish Peacekeeping Force in the Lebanon. While there, John and two of his colleagues were captured by Lebanese Christian Militia. Although shot in three places, John survived, but sadly, his colleagues Private Derek Smallhorne from Dublin and Private Thomas Barrett from Cork were both killed.
The ceremony will be attended by the Minister of State for Defence, Paul Kehoe TD and the Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett. Invitations will also be issued to the ambassadors of the various countries of origin of the PoWs saved by the Rome Escape Line.
“Details of the full programme of events will be announced later, but we are delighted to confirm that it will include a free public performance of Donie Courtney’s highly successful one-man play on the Monsignor’s life – ‘God Has No Country’.”
The Hugh O’Flaherty Commemoration Programme is supported by Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce and Kerry County Council Community Support Fund.