Paddy Cullen from Thurles at Aras an Uachtarain

paddy-cullen-and-mary-mcaleeseUnited Nations Veteran; Paddy Cullen, the Quarry, Mitchel street, Thurles, was afforded a céad míle fáilte at the Aras by President Mary McAleese on Monday November 8th on the 50th Anniversary of the Niemba Ambush.

Paddy was overwhelmed by the welcome given to him by our President where she welcomed each member of the visiting party individually and posed for many photographs. Paddy described the President as the perfect Host, he said  “Mrs  McAleese is the most pleasant, welcoming and accommodating lady I have had the pleasure and privilege to shake hands with. She could not have been more facilitating to me or my comrades on this, also, the 50th Anniversary of the Irish involvement in UN Peace Keeping Missions. Mrs McAleese remained with our party late into the evening, having afforded us all the time in the world. She recalled stories from her youth in Ardoyne, Belfast, where she was the eldest of nine children. Her family was forced to leave the area when the Troubles broke out, she informed us.”

“As a native of the Quarry, in Thurles, I am delighted and indeed honoured to have been invited by President McAleese on this very special occasion. I am fortunate to be back here in the Capital 50 years on, having flown to the Congo from Casement Aerodrome in the Summer of 1960. My near neighbour from Limekiln Lane, Martin Moynihan, also served overseas during that four year, Congo Mission.”

The President had a special word for the two Swedish interpreters, also present, who came to the aid of Tom Kenny, one of the survivors of Niemba all those years ago.

“Corporal Hamilton, whose dad served alongside me in the Congo, gave us a grand tour of the Aras which was built in 1751”.
When asked if he was looking forward to the 100 Anniversary of the Irish Defence Forces involvement in UN Peace Keeping Missions. A sprightly Paddy replied only – with a wry smile.

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