Peacekeeping heroes honoured in Killarney

Major General Kieran Brennan, Deputy Chief of Staff, accepts the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award, on behalf of the Defence Forces, from Hugh O’Flaherty and Pearl Dineen in St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Killarney

A KERRY UN veteran who was seriously wounded in an attack in the Lenabon that left two of his colleagues dead, almost 40 years ago, was singled out for special mention at the presentation of the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award in Killarney last night.

Private John O’Mahony and his wife Mary, from Scartaglen, were special guests at the ceremony in St Mary’s Church of Ireland where Minister of State for Defence, Paul Kehoe, and Irish UN Veterans Chairman, Jim Casey, accepted the award from Deputy Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Niall Kelleher.

UN veteran Jim Casey, Chairman, IUNVA, accepts the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award from Deputy Mayor of Killarney Niall Kelleher

Singling out the retired Kerry peacekeeper for special praise, Minister Kehoe said he is always moved by the story he has to tell of how, in 1980, while serving in the Lebanon, he was shot and seriously injured and two of his colleagues, Pte Derek Smallhorne and Pte Thomas Barrett, were killed.

A number of overseas ambassadors, diplomats and UN veterans were in attendance as well as the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Bishop of Kerry Ray Browne and several senior members of the clergy in Kerry.

In attendance too were four members of the Raaijmakers family from the Netherlands whose uncle, Anton Musters (Fr Anselmus), was an Augustinian priest in Rome and an active member of the Rome Escape Line.

Tributes: UN veteran John O’Mahony, from Scartaglen, at the Hugh O’Flaherty monument in Killarney

Also there were Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty’s nephew, former Supreme Court Judge Hugh O’Flaherty and his niece, Pearl Dineen, who presented the International Humanitarian Medal to Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Kieran Brennan, and Brigadier General Patrick Flynn.

A lone piper performed a lament at the closing of the ceremony in the church and the event was opened with a stirring performance by Killarney actor Donal Courtney of his one-man play, God Has No Country, which is based on the life and times of Monsignor O’Flaherty.

Memorial Society Chairman, Jerry O’Grady, told the gathering that heroes are often defined as those who give of themselves, often putting their own lives at risk for the greater good of others.

“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,” he said.

Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe and the guests pictured after accepting the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award on behalf of the Defence Forces in St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Killarney

Outgoing Deputy Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Niall Kelleher, said from Lebanon to Cyprus and from El Salvador to Kosovo, Irish UN peacekeepers have always served with diligence and distinction.

“That honourable service has probably come to greater public attention in recent years through the telling of the story of the Siege of Jadotville, but for decades now, Irish men and women have proudly entered some of the world’s most dangerous and volatile regions,” he said.

In his acceptance speech, Minister Paul Kehoe remarked: “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.”

The final element of the award ceremony was the presentation of a bursary to the Veterans’ Association by Donal Hickey on behalf of the Muckross House Trustees.

Earlier in the day, to mark the 57th anniversary of the Liberation of Rome, two symbolic trees were planted in the graveyard of the O’Connell Memorial Church in Caherciveen, the burial place of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty.

Pictures: Don MacMonagle

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