UN VETERANS HONOURED: Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe pictured after accepting the Mons Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award 2019 on behalf of the Defence Forces in St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Killarney on Tuesday evening last. Also in photo are Cllr Niall Kelleher, Jim Casey (Chairman IUNVA), Major General Kieran Brennan, Deputy Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Patrick Flynn and UN Veteran John O’Mahony, Hugh O’Flaherty, Pearl Dineen, Jerry O’Grady and invited guests. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Scartaglin native and Irish UN Veteran John O’Mahony, who served as a peacekeeper in Lebanon, was one of the guests of honour at Tuesday night’s annual Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award presentation.
This year, the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Society presented the International Humanitarian Medal to members of the Irish Army who served as peacekeepers in some of the most volatile areas in the world.
The ceremony took place in St Mary’s Church of Ireland in Killarney, and was attended by foreign ambassadors, diplomats and UN Veterans.
CouncillorNiall Kelleher presented the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award Scroll to Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe and Irish UN Veterans Chairman, Jim Casey.
“Just like the incredible humanitarian work carried out by Monsignor O’Flaherty over 75 years ago, the Irish Defence Forces have also brought great honour to Ireland through their participation in peacekeeping operations over the last 60 years,”Minister Paul Kehoe said.
“One of the elements that I am often struck by as Minister is the deep respect and admiration for the Irish Defence Forces right around the world.”
Cllr Kelleher added that from Lebanon to Cyprus and from El Salvador to Kosovo, Irish UN Peacekeepers have always served with diligence and distinction. “Irish Defence Forces in particular have always been warmly welcomed wherever they have served.”
Representing the Hugh O’Flaherty Family and Memorial Society, Judge Hugh O’Flaherty and Pearl Dineen, presented the International Humanitarian Medal to Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Kieran Brennan and Brigadier General Patrick Flynn.
“Heroes are often defined as those who give of themselves, often putting their own lives at risk for the greater good of others,” Jerry O’Grady, Society Chairman, said.
“By this measure, without seeking fame or fortune, the brave men and women of the Irish Defence Forces wearing the iconic blue beret, are truly heroes, deserving of our unbridled admiration and support.”
The award ceremony was preceded by the powerful one-man play ‘God Has No Country’by Donal Courtney, who received a standing ovation from all present.
The final element of the award ceremony was the presentation of a generous bursary to the Veterans Association by Donal Hickey, Vice Chair of the Muckross House Trustees Board.
Included in the audience were four members of the Raaijmakers family from the Netherlands. Their uncle Anton Musters (Fr Anselmus) was an Augustinian Priest in Rome and an active member of the Rome Escape Line. One month before the Liberation of Rome, he was captured by the Gestapo, interrogated and tortured, but refused to reveal any information on the Rome organisation. He was being transported to a prison camp in Germany when he escaped during a stopover in Florence and returned to Rome on the day of Liberation. If Fr Anselmus had given up the Rome Organisation during torture, it is probable the Msgr Hugh and many others would not have survived the war. His bravery saved the lives of many of the Escape Line organisers.
Earlier in the day, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Rome, two symbolic trees were planted in the graveyard of the O’Connell Memorial Church in Cahersiveen, the burial place of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty.