Ireland's Involvement with the UN

Defence Forces Personel in the Congo

Ireland became a member of the United Nations in 1955. Since 1958, the Defence Forces have a continuous presence on peace support operations, mainly in the Middle East. However, in recent years, following the end of the cold war, Defence Forces personnel have also found themselves in many other parts of the globe as peacekeepers.

The foundation of the State’s approach to international peace and security is set out in Article 29.1 of the Constitution in which:

"Ireland affirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality".

The Defence Forces have a proud tradition of successful participation in peace support operations. The operational experience gained continues to form a solid foundation from which to face the challenges posed by the changing nature of international conflict prevention and crisis management. The Government decides on a case-by-case basis whether, when and how to commit Defence Forces’ personnel to such operations.

Conditions of Service

The conditions, under which the Defence Forces may participate on overseas peace support operations, have been made very clear by the Government. In this regard, the conditions, which have been referred to as the “triple lock”, must be satisfied, i.e.

  • The operation must be authorized/mandated by the United Nations
  • It must be approved by the Government; and
  • It must be approved by way of a resolution of Dáil Éireann, where the size of a Defence Forces contribution is more than twelve personnel.

UN authorisation is a key factor that informs the Government’s decision in the event of a request for Defence Forces participation.

Irish Defence Forces personnel have served in countries all over the world, including: Central America, Russia, the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Namibia, Western Sahara, Liberia and East Timor.

Since 1978, a number of Defence Forces officers have served in different positions at UNHQ, New York. At present the Defence Forces provide two officers to the UN's Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO).

This extensive Irish participation in peacekeeping is regarded in very positive terms both by the Government and the Defence Forces. Indeed, in September 1993 the Government restated the roles of the Defence Forces and defined one of them as being:

"To participate in United Nations missions in the cause of international peace." 

Defence Forces Personnel on Parade in Chad

Ireland's participation in peacekeeping operations has promoted a positive image of Ireland and its Defence Forces both within the international community at the United Nations and among all sides in the mission areas.

Unfortunately this service has not been without cost. To date 85 members of the Defence Forces have given their lives in the cause of world peace.

The high standing of the Irish Defence Forces within UN Peacekeeping is reflected in the senior positions that have been held by Irish Military personnel in the past, Force Commander in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Syria-Israel Border (UNDOF) and Lebanon (UNIFIL), Chief of Staff of the United Nations Troops Supervision Organisation in the Middle East (UNTSO) and UNMIL in Liberia and Chief Military Observer India- Pakistani Border (UNMOGIP).

An Irish Maj Gen was EU Operational Commander of the EUFOR Mission to TCHAD/CAR 2008/2009, an Irish General commanded the Multi National Task Force Centre in Kosovo (KFOR) in 2007 and Defence Forces Officers have served at in key positions in UN Headquarters in New York, we believe that the number of such senior appointments held by Irish Officers shows that the professionalism of the Irish Defence Forces continues to be held in high regard.


Read about our Current Overseas Missions

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