Posts Tagged ‘Poems about Irish Peacekeepers’


Aircraft Hangar, Baldonnel 2017 photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan


(Irish UN Peacekeeping troops deployment from Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel)


Queuing up along the wall in the dining hall,

an early breakfast before the long haul,

their camouflaged uniforms separated hearts from bodies.

For them the most difficult part was over, they had said their goodbyes,

their families already returned to the car park, preparing for home.

It’s always the same, the wrenching away, the not knowing.


Later on I saw them in daylight, crowding by platoons and companies

on the ramp between the hangars – waiting, the dark bunched up camouflage

resembled small copses on the landscape, a long hedgerow here and there.

There was a delay so they wandered round a bit before the orders came to form up,

the pilot had signaled time to board, and the busses shuttled them out to the taxiway.


Old sweats and red arses, though even the well-seasoned soldier

always has a slight churning in his gut before departure. I’ve been there,

know the feeling well, the twisting anxiety, stomach rotating

that only really leaves you after a couple of days in the AO. I nodded to a few

faces I recognised, shook hands with others and wished them a safe return.


I knew some who never got one, their tours will last forever.

In each of those uniforms was a life, a family, a story.

They were going into the brutality of the world and every one of them was a poem

that would never be written, giving their all when there was always more to give.

I am glad of some things my country did.


Michael J. Whelan


AO = area of operations


Published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Magazine, September 2018 Issue https://www.google.com/url?q=https://liveencounters.net/2018/08/24/live-encounters-poetry-writing-september-2018/&source=gmail&ust=1535200460627000&usg=AFQjCNE__cspg6fKq3qgSVFA4jkJa8ZkvA


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Ethnic Cleansing – kosovo (Michael J. Whelan, 2001)





There are times

when you question the truth,

the wisdom of being in this place,

and if what you’re doing helps

when the digger sits dejected

gleaming yellow

in a bitter winter sun,

‘cause the C.O. wants his inspection done,

while the homeless need foundations dug.


Michael J. Whelan


C.O. = Commanding Officer

Published in a sequence of poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue.











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Irish U.N. Patrol - South Lebanon c.1990s Photo by Michael J. Whelan

Irish U.N. Patrol – South Lebanon c.1990s Photo by Michael J. Whelan




Sometimes a muzzle flash

follows the bark of a gun barrel.


Sometimes the ground erupts

before anyone hears the screaming shell.


Sometimes a house disappears in the silent distance

all that echoes is a mother’s tears.


Sometimes a peacekeeper hears belligerents say

war is ended, there is no enemy


But they would kill him

those enemies of truth,


he being a witness

and standing in their way.


Michael J. Whelan


Published in a sequence of poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas (Ed) in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue

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DUST: Photo: Michael J. Whelan






Returning to base each night

covered in a layer of grimy dust

that fell from the sky,

thick and slimy when wet,

I was always reminded of extermination camps,

(people were still missing from the war’s

ethnic cleansing),

but we were told by our superiors

that we had nothing to worry about,

the dust was from the chimneys in Obilic.


Michael J. Whelan


 Published as part of a sequence of six poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue

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Michael J. Whelan. Photo: Michael J. Whelan



(Irish U.N. post coming under attack,

South Lebanon, c. 1990s)



Vibrating rings expand to edge of cup,

if I close my eyes it will be gone.

The one o fives and one five fives are curving through the night,

my ears pick out the distant crump, crump, crump.


A tank-round bursts the silence,

transforming blast-walls in a multitude of sparkles,

lit up by a million flechettes puncturing concrete slabs.

The dancing shrapnel illuminates our billets to the violent night,

the echoes search, as red flares pop into haunting flight.


Then our radios whine up, their fans belch out a constant drone

of shoot reps and a firing close in response to RPGs,

panicked non-human voices fill the sweating room,

the carnival is back again but much too soon.


My chest rotates in anxious sickening trip,

it’s nights like this I feel that I could quit

the arc of noise and traffic through my sleep.


Michael J. Whelan



RPG = Rocket Propelled Grenade

Flechette = Isreali anti-personnel shell filled with long shards of metal

One o fives and one five fives = Artillery shells

Published by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue under the sequence title TRUTH

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Michael J. Whelan – Tibnine Castle, Peacekeeping S. Lebanon 





There is a fire sky hanging

over Tibnine,

a blood sky, drowning

the ramparts of the Lionheart’s keep,

transforming white walls to red.

And I wonder if the Christian king

who built this castle saw skies like this,

heard the echoes of Alexander the Great

as he sacked Sidon and Tyre

two thousand years before,

like I hear the drums of Saracens

and Crusaders in this disputed place.



Michael J. Whelan


(Richard The Lionheart is said to have slept in Tibnine Castle.

The castle, built during the Crusades, is currently

situated within the Irish battalion area of peacekeeping

operations in South Lebanon).


Published in a sequence of six poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine – January 2018 Issue

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‘Peacekeeper’ by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press – April 2016


Hi folks, this is a new Review of PEACEKEEPER, which appeared in Lagan Online at the Verbal Arts Centre, Derry – Northern Ireland (by Colin Dardis). The poems in the collection reflect on the personal and collective experiences of Irish soldiers/citizens on international peace support missions, the first collection of poetry to do so!

Please see attached link below, and please share!


‘”Peacekeeper” – Michael J. Whelan’s debut Doire collection – is an amazing record of Whelan’s tours of duty, as moving as anything by renowned war poets such as Wilfred Owen. Whereas Owen sought to strip away the faux-grandeur and romanticism of war, Whelan has started from a point where everything is as open and exposed as a torn limb.”

Lagan Online ‘We review @MichaelJWhelan1’s collection ‘Peacekeeper’ from @Doirepress, a startling (and at times shocking) record of Whelan’s tours of duty with the UN.’


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