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The world's best peacekeepers; Yousay IN YOUR OPINION...

THE television scenes of the Queen's visit to the Republic of Ireland showed some interesting features and brought back some memorable moments of history.

The Guard of Honour of soldiers showed that quite a number of them were wearing military campaign medals. The Irish Army has not fought a war ever, although men from Southern Ireland helped Britain in great numbers in the first world war, as was acknowledged by various commentators.

These medals were earned for a much nobler cause than fighting. These soldiers, and so many of them, are among the world's best peacekeepers.

Wherever the United Nations decide to keep warring factors divided, the Irish soldiers are much in demand.

The border in Cyprus between Greeks and Turks, and Lebanon, Gaza, Sierra Leone, the Balkans and other areas where riots, uprisings and political unrest often breaks out, where the UN decides that an enforced peace line is necessary, the Irish are sent.

I met some of these soldiers some years ago and their neutrality, sense of humour, discipline and bearing make them extremely popular with the warring factions on both sides.

I was told that it is a good career for young men, they see parts of the world that you would not see as tourists. Some I spoke to were in their 50s, and still very fit.

I recalled that during the last war, Ireland remained neutral. There was a hard line group of republicans who floated the idea of trying to persuade the Germans to drop 5,000 paratroops on Belfast to cause mayhem. This was featured recently on the Yesterday TV channel.

Obviously this idea was never treated seriously. The Irish Government would never entertain the idea. However, there were numbers of both British and German aircrew who had to crash in Ireland for some reason or other.

Officers who gave their word that they would not try to escape were allowed to enjoy the pleasures of that lovely country.

They had to be interned for the duration of the war to comply with Ireland's neutrality.

You then had the bizarre situation of, occasionally, German and British officers fraternising in public places. Not a bad place to sit out the war.

* Gerry Parsons Barry
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:May 25, 2011
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