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The SFOR Irish Contingent

By Capt. Luis Barber
First published in
SFOR Informer #99, October 25, 2000

Sarajevo - Ireland sent its first contingent to SFOR on July 1, 1997. Currently, the seventh rotation is carrying out its mission in Camp Butmir with 50 members of various ranks.
Lt. Col. Ken Kelly is the National Contingent Commander. He started his long experience abroad in 1963, in the former Belgian Congo. He says he has built up a lot knowledge after many years of international missions.
"We learn more about the world we live in because there is a two-way flow of information about people's home countries. There is a bond of a commitment among soldiers in the cause of peace which gives a lot of satisfaction when soldiers see positive things happening as a result of their service," he said.
Most of the Irish Contingent serves in the International Military Police Company (IMP Coy) in Butmir. The IMP Company provides military security, traffic control, accident investigation, and assists in the maintenance of good order and discipline amongst all SFOR troops in Sarajevo.
Commandant John Fitzmaurice is the commander of the IMP company. In Ireland, he is the Chief Instructor of the Defence Forces Military Police School and his mission there includes the supervision of all instruction.
The IMP Coy is comprised of three platoons, Italian Carabinieri, Spanish Guardia Civil and Irish Military Police. The chief of the Irish platoon is Capt. Bernard Markey.
"Our job is to exercise a sensible and fair policing policy, to ensure that everybody completes their mission safely is the most important task for us," explained Markey.
The Investigation Section is in charge of carrying out investigations and reports on all serious crime, and also corrects, collates and distributes all Military Police Reports. Corporals Sinead Byrne and John Lonergan, Special Investigators, think the Irish have always maintained very good relations with all nationalities and are widely known to be friendly people.
"From July 1, we have dealt with cases ranging from theft to attending scenes of death. There is no set routine in my job, every day is different," explained Lonergan.
In this company there are also two fitters and two medics. Cpl. Jim Quirke, a medical technician is here for his second time. The Travel Office, Catering Cell and Provost Marshall are other areas where the Irish are assigned.
The Chief of the Irish National Support Element (NSE) is Commandant Michael Dolan. He has been in Bosnia for several tours and he says he is very pleasantly surprised at the increased level of comfort in his mission. He said he felt a little disconcerting initially but, "It is surprising how quickly a soldier adapts to circumstances," joked Dolan.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about these Irish Contingent is the total amount of experience in missions abroad. All of them have served in various situations and within different organisations maintaining the peace: Lebanon, Israel, Rwanda, Zaire and Central America are some of the most common places where these soldiers have worked.
According to Kelly, "Irish soldiers are very professional and dedicated to providing the best service". Relating to the difficulties they found to carry out their tasks, they consider the language barrier is perhaps the main one. "However we have discovered a way to deal with this problem and it appears to be working well. We deal with all situations in a firm and friendly manner," said Sgt. Seamus Tierney, an MP.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Ireland
SFOR at Work