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Ireland’s first female army general gets senior post in UN headquarters in New York

Major General Maureen O’Brien appointed as deputy military advisor to UN Secretary General


Major General Maureen O'Brien. Photo: Andrew Downes

Major General Maureen O'Brien. Photo: Andrew Downes

Major General Maureen O'Brien. Photo: Andrew Downes

Ireland’s first female army general has been appointed to a senior post at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Major General Maureen O’Brien is taking up a new post as the deputy military advisor to the UN Secretary General.

She returned home in March after serving 18 months as the deputy force commander of the UNDOF peace mission on the Golan Heights.

Eleven of the 18 months were spent in charge of the mission.

Her appointment to the leading role at the UN headquarters is seen as a major honour for the Defence Forces and followed stiff competition for the post from several other troop contributing countries.

Less than a month after her arrival on the Golan Heights in September 2019, General O’Brien became acting force commander and quickly saw the importance of establishing good liaison with Israel and Syria and building up trust.

She told the Irish Independent in an interview last month that the Irish sense of humour was important to those discussions.

“It helped to have a sense of humour but you had to know when to use it and not appear to be flippant,” the Galway native said.

Since she came home, she has been campaigning for an increase in the number of female personnel in the peacekeeping contingents.

Despite a big recruitment campaign here, women account for only 7pc of personnel in the Defence Forces and this is also reflected in the overseas missions where the female representation is broadly similar.

Until now, General O’Brien’s deployment in the Golan Heights has been the peak of a military career during which she became the first female lieutenant colonel in 2011 and colonel in 2016.

As part of her campaign for greater female involvement in peace missions, she pointed out that there were very few women in the top military jobs in the UN and said she believed that an increase there would help to increase percentages down through the ranks.

Her replacement as deputy force commander of UNDOF is a woman from Ghana.

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