Fighting For Peace – The Story of the First Irish UN Peacekeeping Mission 1960 -1964 (Congo) is a major documentary film by the team at COWSHED Media in Ardmore Studios, in which I participated as a historian during the production. The film was launched in the Irish Film Centre and later broadcast to great acclaim on Irish television (TG4) in 2013.
The film is now available to purchase in DVD format. See details below.

Fighting for Peace -  Documentary DVD cover

Fighting for Peace – Documentary DVD cover

PRESS RELEASE – CONGO DVD – Troid ar son na Síochána (Fighting for Peace)
16 January 2013 Congo DVD Release. …
Following the broadcast of the documentary, Troid ar son na Síochána (Fighting for Peace) on TG4 on December 19th and 22nd 2012, there has been huge demand for a DVD of the programme. In response to this, the production company, Cowshed Media will have a DVD on sale from February 1st 2013.
For details, contact: Gerry Johnston at 01 2760590 or email, gerryjohnstonsfx@gmail.com
Fighting for Peace is the story of the Congo, by the men who were there, and covers the full four years of the campaign: 1960 to 1964. It follows them from the ridiculously hasty preparation for departure, buoyed by public interest, which was demonstrated by a turn-out of an exuberant crowd of over 200,000 people in Dublin to see them off, through their epic journeys, aboard massive US Air Force troop carriers, from Ireland, across Europe to central Africa.
Young Irish soldiers, ranging in the age from sixteen to early thirties rushed to volunteer. They said goodbye to their families and set out, with a sense of adventure and excitement, into the unknown. What awaited them was a political and logistical nightmare, fraught with danger. Twenty-six would not come back alive.
This mission was unique, the first and only time a United Nations peacekeeping mission became one of ‘peace-enforcement’ and the first time Irish soldiers were engaged in combat since the foundation of the State.
Now veterans, they recall their experiences, illustrating their innocence, their lack of life experience, the army’s lack of resources: equipment and clothing, and the lasting impact of the Congo mission on their lives.
Fighting for Peace is compelling blend of pathos, tragedy and humour. It is an enduring tribute to those who paved the way for the development of the Irish army as the most highly regarded peacekeeping force in the world, and a tribute to the first young Irish peacekeepers that lost their lives in the cause of peace.
They were the true pioneers. Through their service, their dedication, their courage and sacrifice they began a proud tradition, a tradition that continues to the present day. Lt. Gen. Seán McCann Chief of Staff Irish Defence Forces
We have one of the finest peacekeeping forces in the world. That did not happen by accident; it happened because of the efforts of people like you. Mary McAleese President of Ireland, 1997 – 2011
Running time: 52 minutes ©2013 Cowshed Media Ardmore Studios, Herbert Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Tel: + 353 1 2760590 Email: gerryjohnstonsfx@gmail.com
IRISH ARMY FOOTBALL TEAM 1944 (Liam Crowe kneeling extreme right)(c)Crowe Family

IRISH ARMY FOOTBALL TEAM 1944 (Liam Crowe kneeling extreme right)(c)Crowe Family

LIAM CROWE – RIP  (1923 – 2014)

A wonderful part of Irish football and military history passed away today 19 February 2014.
Liam Crowe played for Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians among others during the League of Ireland way back in the 1940′s and togged out for the Irish Army (while he was serving his country on national service) against the Irish International football team on the Sunday following the Football Association of Ireland Cup Final in 1944 during the period of World War Two when international games were very few.
Liam was an amazing footballer in his youth and carried the interest and professionalism throughout his private and working life in Guinness’s, passing it onto his children and grandchildren.
Liam Crowe can be seen kneeling in the front row on the extreme right in this Irish Army team photograph taken after the famous fixture at Dalymount Park, Dublin on April 23rd 1944. The Army beat the Irish 4-2
Liam is my wife Niamh’s Grandfather and it was a privilege to have known him.
He will be very sadly missed by his family and friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – RIP.
Check the links and photo’s below for information on Liam Crowe’s football career: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liam_Crowe
Bunker S. Lebanon, 1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Bunker S. Lebanon, 1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan



It is the quiet time.

We have disturbed a hornet’s nest.

Sandbags give shape to the sand.

We fill them in pairs,

one holding the mouth open

the other bending into a bridge over the Earth,

the spade lifting grains of time as they pour away,

escaping like blood from an open wound.

The rest is just history

shovelled down the neck of a hungry war feeding

on souls, a monster that’s never satisfied.


We rest now and then,

catch our breaths, switch tasks,

wipe silver beads from our foreheads with burnt forearms,

stretch our backs, curse the gods and warmed bottled water.


We fill sandbags with the erosion of time.

Pile them, shape them and square them off

around the bunker.

Life is shorter for the hornet.


I think of its shiny green body,

remembering how it dug into the sand, pushing with its legs,

as we are digging now with shoulders arching in the sun.

The hornet is dead.


The bunker has a doorway in the shade,

a portal to the underworld

when the sky is filled with lead

and we become creatures of the dark.


Michael J. Whelan



The new issue of the excellent Burning Bush II (issue #6) which includes my poem PORTAL is now currently available on ISSUU and features poetry, fiction, reviews and interviews from as far away as Mexico, USA, UK and Ireland from writers and poets including Peadar O’Donoghue – editor of the Poetry Bus Magazine, Nessa O’ Mahony, Doireann Ni Grioffa, John W. Sexton, Doreen Duffy, Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Donna Sorenson amongst many others that I admire.

I am really happy to have my poem PORTAL (above) included in this issue of The Burning Bush II by Editors David Gardiner and Alan Jude Moore, who I think are doing a really wonderful job on the magazine …please check it out, there is some really great material and writers inside. Thanks for including me here guys!

See link to The Burning Bush II literary Magazine, issue#6 here; http://issuu.com/burningbush2/docs/burning_bush_2__issue_6




Yesterday Saturday 08 February 2014  I attended an excellent One Day Workshop  in the beautifully scenic Dublin Mountains at Carousel Creates Writers Centre with Enda Coyle-Greene one of Ireland’s eminent poets.


CAROUSEL WINDOW - Michael J. Whelan

CAROUSEL WINDOW – Michael J. Whelan

An amazing writing venue, where I love being, and wonderful host and writer herself – Carolann Copland - who I cannot recommend highly enough.

The group and I explored the line break, the freshness and vitality in language and imagery, the pleasures and pitfalls of writing in rhyme, and the importance of reading before writing: just some of the elements that go into the making of a successful poem. It was a lovely inspiring day and I made some new friends in the writery world too, which is always an enlightening experience.

Carolann organises many workshops and events throughout the year aimed at writers of all genres, ages and abilities, if you get the opportunity to visit the writers centre then please take it, you won’t be disappointed!


See more about Enda Coyle-Greene here http://www.irishwriters-online.com/coyle-greene-enda/

See more about Carousell Creates Writers Centre here http://www.carousel-creates.com/home/4561825108

and here https://www.facebook.com/Carousel1234

See more about Carolann Copland here http://www.carousel-creates.com/about/4562594962

Pioneers and Aviators: A Century of Irish Aviation - Avolon

Pioneers and Aviators: A Century of Irish Aviation – Avolon

On January 22nd 2014 I had the privilege of being invited, as a result of my participation as a historian, to attend the World Premiere of “Pioneers and Aviators, A Century of Irish Aviation,”  a documentary commissioned and hosted by Avolon – the international aircraft leasing group. The event took place in the Irish National Concert Hall, Dublin. The film was introduced by Ray Conner, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The premiere was also attended by State dignitaries including Uachtarán na hÉireann (President of Ireland), Michael D Higgins.

I am really excited about this film as for the last fourteen years I have been working towards the promotion and preservation of Irish aviation history and heritage. The director Alan Gilsenan and his production team interviewed me in the Air Corps Museum and also requested my help with the provision of sources and historical information on the early days of Air Corps and Civil aviation history They also filmed much of the collection. It was funny to see my face and hear my voice on the big screen in the company of many of the leading lights of the Irish aviation industry and Dr Michael Kennedy – a very important historian (Royal Irish Academy) and friend of mine.

Pioneers and Aviators: A Documentary on Irish Aviation

The documentary was commissioned by Avolon and tells the story of the pioneering individuals whose vision, passion, successes and failures helped forge Ireland’s unique aviation landscape. The documentary charts Ireland’s aviation history, from its beginnings with the first transatlantic flight landing in the west of Ireland, through to the present day and the role Ireland and the Irish play in the global aviation industry.  Avolon ‘is proud of its Irish heritage and this documentary helps showcase the aviation industry in Ireland and the continuing success of Irish companies and individuals in the global aviation industry.’ The documentary will be broadcast on television by RTÉ, Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster, as a two part series on the 20th and 27th February 2014; both at 10.15pm.

Original date was February 13th, but it’s now pushed to the 20th.

Director: Alan Gilsenan

The documentary was written and directed by Alan Gilsenan, an award winning Irish film-maker, writer and theatre director. His work has appeared on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, RTÉ, the History Channel and CNBC among others. Alan is currently a member of the Board of RTÉ. He has previously held positions on the Irish Film Board, the Irish Film Institute and Film-Makers Ireland.

Score: Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin

The score for the film was composed by the renowned composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin who also created an original overture which was performed at the event by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

See photo’s and video clip at bottom of link below

Image and information taken from http://www.avolon.aero/pressrelease/2014/pressRelease_pioneerAndAviators.htm




Christmas Eve 2013


Gusting words

on both sides of the street


on newspaper sheets

trapped in men’s hearts


by roaring winds

the world undoes itself again

words curve like sails

in the night –

PEACE exiled to darkness,


but always, O how always

after the storms have passed

the smallest birds

sing the loudest songs


O little Christmas tree

the hopes that you inspire!



Michael J. Whelan

24 December 2013



A little while ago I entered a poem into the Carousel Creates Writing competition and was lucky to end up winning an amazing prize of a weekend writers retreat at the wonderful Carousel Creates Writers Centre in County Dublin on 23-24 November 2013. The centre is located beneath the atmospheric Hellfire Club and surrounded by rolling hills and forests including those of Killakee and the famous Massey Estate, the landscapes are absolutely beautiful and the view through the front window of the Carousel Creates Writers Centre encapsulates a very high vista of Dublin Bay and some of the coastline. During the weekend the lovely Carolann Copland (writer and the centre’s director) delivered an excellent workshop on WRITING LOCATION as well as exceptional  hospitality throughout and Bernadette Kearns delivered an eye opening workshop on WRITING CHARACHTER to the guest writers staying there, all of whom are new found friends. All together the weekend was a fabulous experience and I enjoyed every moment of it and will definitely return many times to this most inspirational place. If you are a local writer or a writer thinking of visiting Ireland in the future then you should definitely put a spell at Carousel Creates on your itinerary!

Please check out the site http://www.carousel-creates.com/

The poem below was inspired by my stay at the centre and view through the window overlooking magical landscapes.

CAROUSEL WINDOW - Michael J. Whelan

CAROUSEL WINDOW – Michael J. Whelan




After a weekend retreat

at the Carousel Creates Writers Centre



Soon – it will be the moontime

and O how the stars they will come out

but for now I am content

for through the carousel window

I watch the world as it moves about.


On this late November evening

Lambay’s crooked silhouette

climbs out over my thin horizon,

lifts the heaviest whitest sky

once more above Dublin bay.


Then there’s the little songs and silent tunes

of small birds perched on power lines,

like notes on new sheet music

they form and spin and change the shape

of poems inside my mind.


Seeking freedom through meniscus glass

(the membrane of my skull)

they push and pull and slosh around

where tall ships come and go,

like tides against their hulls.


Through this lens I witness worlds

of dancing trees and autumn leaves,

hills running to the sea,

and capture words and write the poems

the carousel creates for me.



Michael J. Whelan



Inspired and started during a writers weekend

at Carousel Creates Writers Centre,

23-24 Nov 2013


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