Peacekeeper Profile: Cathal McGeoghan
Cathal McGeoghan hails from Ireland and started his policing career with An Garda Síochána (The Irish National Police Service) in 2004. He has held several roles in the past 15 years is currently assigned to uniformed patrol duties in Dublin. UNFICYP is Cathal’s first deployment with the United Nations; in this interview, he speaks about his work in Cyprus as well as why, he believes, more people should join peace operations.
Tell us a bit about your work with UNFICYP
I am currently assigned to Pyla Station in UNFICYP’s Sector Four where I am the Assistant Sector Civil Affairs Police Liaison Officer. As an UNPOL officer deployed with the Civil Affairs team I work alongside civilian and military colleagues for issuing of farming, job and construction permits to local residents. Other tasks that we undertake collaboratively include coordinating the Mission’s response to certain activities within the UN-administered Buffer Zone such as religious pilgrimages and intercommunal events.
I interact regularly with members of both communities on the island to help resolve any problems that they face and facilitate the continued development of both the community in Pyla and in the wider Sector Four area.
What do you feel are some of your biggest achievements in your career with UN peacekeeping?
Personally, I believe that seeing the results of the continued efforts made by my colleagues in UNFICYP to contribute to a return to normal conditions in Cyprus has been the most rewarding and fulfilling achievement of my career with UN peacekeeping to date. I have had the chance to meet people from all sections of the local community through UNPOL’s role in policing community events in the Buffer Zone.
I believe that the presence of UNPOL in the Buffer Zone, and the good working relationship they enjoy with the local communities has helped make a positive difference to people’s lives by breaking down barriers and helped build up trust amongst both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. I have a great sense of pride in seeing members of both communities continue to interact positively with UN staff and each other as a result of our initiatives.
Could you tell us a bit about the challenges faced and sacrifices made by peacekeepers across the globe?
I believe that all peacekeepers, regardless of where they serve, face challenges when they participate in UN missions. On a personal level every peacekeeper makes a sacrifice by virtue of being separated from their family, friends and loved ones at home for what can be prolonged periods of time during their service.
Sadly, as has been seen on numerous occasions in the past, and indeed, several times this year, some peacekeepers make the ultimate sacrifice with their lives in order to protect others and to preserve peace.
Would you encourage more people to join peace operations worldwide? If yes, why?
I would definitely encourage more people to participate in peace operations worldwide. The UN allows people from differing countries and diverse backgrounds to make efforts to achieve what is perhaps the most noble and worthwhile of causes – the pursuit of peace.
I believe peacekeeping offers a tremendous opportunity to develop oneself on both a professional and personal level. Personally, I have experienced new cultures by working with, and making friends with people that I would have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise.