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Peace is not a finish line, it is more than the absence of war – Minister Flanagan


Visit to Ireland by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, 24-26 May 2015

Tipperary International Peace Award Ceremony

Introductory speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D.

Ballykisteen, Co. Tipperary

Sunday 24 May 2015

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mrs. Ban, fellow Ministers, Garda Commissioner, Councillors, Chairman, Distinguished Guests,

It gives me great pleasure to take part in today’s ceremony.

We are very proud of the Tipperary Peace Convention. As we commemorate the centenary of the First World War, it is worth recalling the genesis of this important prize. The most famous song to come out of the war is of course “It’s a long way to Tipperary”. This song is still associated with soldiers marching off to the horrors of the western front. I understand that the original organisers of this prize felt very strongly that they would like Tipperary to be associated with peace rather than war, and conceived the idea of a Tipperary Peace Convention. I would like to pay tribute to them for their foresight and vision.

The Tipperary Peace Award counts some very distinguished men and women among its recipients.

Since it was first awarded to former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nobel Peace Prize winner and UN High Commissioner for Namibia Sean McBride in 1984, recipients have included Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton, Benazir Bhutto and just last year, Malala Yousafzai. It is perhaps notable that the first Award was presented to a distinguished UN diplomat and that the 2015 Award, in this the 60th Anniversary of Ireland’s UN membership, is being presented to another great UN statesman, Ban Ki-moon.

Mr. Secretary General,

We are in the midst of a decade of commemorations on this island, and as we remember our own struggle for liberation we also participate in events to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War. There are no precise figures in relation to the number of Irish people who fought in that war, but if you include Irish or those of Irish descent who fought in the British, Canadian, US and Anzac armies, the figure is over a quarter of a million, with casualties in the region of 40,000. Some 1400 of those who died came from Tipperary. There are no doubt people here in this room whose great grandfathers and great uncles fought and died in Flanders Field and Gallipoli and the Somme and the many other battles of that terrible war. ‘The war to end all wars’ as it was so inaccurately called when it finally came to an end in November 1918.

It was from these ashes of old Europe and in a sincere desire to build a better world, into which so many newly independent countries like Ireland were taking their place for the first time, that the League of Nations emerged. That effort sadly failed. But the seeds it sowed eventually came to fruition after yet another terrible global conflict and it is such a great honour and pleasure to have you, the eighth Secretary General of the United Nations here in Tipperary to accept this award.

Mr. Secretary General,

For the past thirty years, the Tipperary Peace Convention has been coming together to explore ways to advance and promote peace and reconciliation, not just in Ireland but throughout the world. This work, although rooted in the local context and informed by the experiences of peacebuilding in Ireland, is also deeply global in its application. By recognising in such a public way, the men and women from Ireland and around the world who have made real and lasting contributions towards the building of peace, the Tipperary Peace Convention has made its own unique contribution to international peace.

It is now accepted wisdom that high-level political work on peacebuilding by international leaders will ultimately only be sustained through the hard work and engagement of local people and local communities, such as here in Tipperary, working for peace.

We have learned this lesson ourselves the hard way from our own experience of the struggle for peace and reconciliation on our own island. We have grown to appreciate the importance of persistence, the importance of dialogue, and the need for inclusive democratic community engagements in resolving both the small and the big issues of our day.

We are also very conscious of Ireland’s role in promoting international peace. We celebrate the 60th anniversary of our membership of the United Nations this year and with pride, we look back on our unbroken record of service to blue-helmet peacekeeping since 1958, serving in such difficult and challenging places as the Middle East, the Congo and West and North Africa. I’d like to thank our veterans who provided the Guard of Honour here today In particular, we are humbled also by the ultimate sacrifice of the 86 Irish personnel who have given their lives in the cause of peace and the protection of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

As the threats to peace in the world are changing – conflict, terrorism, epidemics such as Ebola, climate change, hunger and the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War – we need to look at new ways of maintaining peace.

- This is why Ireland works with the United Nations in supporting international mediation efforts and peace-support operations.

- This is why Ireland recognises the importance of the participation of women in decision-making in the area of peace and security.

- This is why Ireland has taken a lead role in advocating that the new Sustainable Development Goals that commit us to building peaceful and inclusive societies. We must look at situations of conflict and fragility in a more thoughtful way than ever before.

Mr. Secretary General,

Ireland understands only too well that the quest for peace is a long and arduous one. Peace is not a finish line, it is more than the absence of war. Building peace is a long term project and the work of post-conflict reconciliation can never be considered to be truly complete. The pillars of the UN: peace and security, development, and human rights have all been challenged in various ways since you have taken on the role of Secretary General. Under your leadership, the United Nations has made progress in all areas, but of course, there is much left to do.

The United Nations is of crucial importance for a country such as Ireland. As a small and relatively new country there was understandable pride and excitement here when Ireland took her “place among the nations”. Now we are at the very heart of the UN as a small but active member of the family of nations, dedicated to the principles and values enshrined in the UN Charter.

For a country like Ireland, nothing is entirely domestic or wholly foreign. Our society – with such a long history of emigration and return – is touched at every level by international engagement. Our peace and prosperity requires a functioning system of global governance capable of developing and upholding a rules-based international system. We continue to rely on committed and principled international statesmen and women like Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr. Secretary General,

I want to briefly pay tribute to your own achievements as UN Secretary General. You have convened not one but two Climate Change Summits, first in 2007. Last year’s gathering was the largest such meeting of world leaders on climate change in history. Thanks to your leadership, we now look towards a universal, meaningful agreement in Paris at the end of the year to advance climate action on five fronts: cutting emissions; mobilizing money and markets; pricing carbon; strengthening resilience; and mobilizing new coalitions.

Your commitment to empowering women has also made a difference. You pushed for the establishment of UN Women, an agency that consolidates UN activity towards gender equality. You have increased the number of women in senior management positions by more than 40 per cent, reaching the highest level in the Organization’s history. You have taken real practical steps, at a time when so many others just pay lip service to ideals.

You yourself were born in a county suffering occupation during the Second World War. You grew up in a country in conflict, and you saw at first hand the value of the UN in helping to recover and rebuild, and you have devoted your career to public service. 2014 was a particularly challenging year, with an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises and new and untested kinds of conflict and insecurity. Despite this, you have steered the United Nations with firm leadership and good grace, and remained committed to the very core principles that the United Nations represents: peace, development and human rights.

Mr. Secretary General

I will close as I began by recalling the very different world of one hundred years ago when the terrible scourge of war raged across Europe.

Just before he was killed in France in 1916 Tom Kettle, a prominent Irish politician and writer and poet wrote this poem to his daughter. It captures well the horrors of war which the UN in its most fundamental mission seeks to overcome and also the importance of solidarity and global fellowship that lie at the heart of your mission as Secretary General.

“So here, while mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in an herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.