Michael Walsh, Commandant (retired), served with the Reserve, Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCA), before joining the Cadet School in the Military College in 1976. During his military career he served in the Artillery Corps and with the Military Police Corps. In 1994 he was seconded to GOAL and worked as a logistics officer in a refugee camp in Goma during the Rwandan genocide. He went to the Lebanon with the 57th Infantry Battalion in 1995 and worked in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2009. At the time of his retirement from the Defence Forces in 2012 he was serving as Aide de Camp (ADC) to President Michael D. Higgins. Comdt Walsh was interviewed for the Military Archives Oral History Project on 7th February 2017.

In this clip, Commandant Walsh recalls an incident in the Lebanon when on 29th June 1985 he and some of his colleagues came under fire at a checkpoint. Michael recalls his fear during this incident and reveals powerfully that he believed he was going to die. Poignantly, he notes that this was also the date of his son's first birthday.

Comandant Walsh recalls his journey to Rwanda and Nairobi and eventually Goma, where he worked for the charity GOAL. He recalls flying in an eight seater plane from Nairobi to Goma. He reflects on his feelings on getting closer to Goma and his anxieties about what was facing him. He details his early experience in Goma of seeing refugees dying from cholera and dysentery. He powerfully recalls the smell and the image of bamboo mats containing dead bodies.

Commandant Walsh speaks about the instructors including Sam Shannon (from Kilrush in County Clare) who had been a Congo Veteran and Packie Burke who had been at Jadotville (1961). He regrets the fact that during Cadet School in the Defence Forces, the experience of the instructors in the Congo and other places was not utilised to benefit Cadets. Instead there was no mention of these experiences.

Commandant Walsh outlines the rules associated with the role of Aide de Camp (ADC) to the President of Ireland. He also speaks about the challenges of dealing with phone calls to Áras an Úachtarán by people who were in personal difficulty.

Commandant Walsh reflects on his early experiences in Rwanda and the reality of dealing with burying thousands of bodies in mass graves in Goma town. Refers to Paul Keyes and Tom Boyce (Irish army Officers) and recalls their early induction into the reality of the crisis. Keyes and Boyce had already handled 2,000 bodies that day and buried them in mass graves with local boy scouts and (French) legionnaires. He speaks about the challenges of dealing with a humanitarian crisis. Commandant Walsh explains the work involved in 'trying to put order on the place', including supporting medical staff and learning how to put a butterfly drip into a dying child. He discusses the logistic and operational challenges involved in their work. He refers to the dangers associated with the work and affirms that it was impossible to work in the camps at night, declaring 'these guys would kill you', referring to the Congolese soldiers. Refers to some of the team including Kieran Spollan (Sanitation and Water), Tony White (building and fencing). He refers to John Ging who set up the systems of supplies. John Ging was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as Director of the Operational Division at OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) in February 2011. He oversees the day-to-day management of all OCHA field operations worldwide and on behalf of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, and is the day-to-day focal point for supporting Humanitarian Coordinators. Mr. Ging is also the lead adviser to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on operational decision-making.

Commandant Walsh recalls a fist fight between him and other Irish soldiers with Hezbollah fighters in the Lebanon with the 57th Infantry Battalion – May 1985 – October 1985. He explains that the Hezbollah members who were trying to take an old man out of the village they were based in, on the allegation the man was a spy. He also outlines the importance of the policy of non-escalation.

Commandant Walsh refers to Father Willie Cummins in Rwanda and his efforts to offer spiritual respect to the hundreds of bodies being buried in Goma. He explains how Father Cummins nightly said the prayers for the dead and powerfully recalls the scene of the mass grave.

Commandant Walsh outlines his recollections of Dermot Early (Chief of Staff from 2007 to 2010). He remembers working closely with Early and underlines his leadership style. He also reflects on his role in the Defence Forces.

Commandant Walsh reflects on some dangerous experiences in the Lebanon and underlines the importance of communications and attention to detail in operations with the Defence Forces.

Commandant Walsh speaks about working in Kosovo in 2009 with the ICTYU International Crime Tribunal. He speaks about having to watch videos of mass murders to help identify war crimes and war criminals. He speaks about how at a conference in Butmir, he got a female officer to dress up in order to get photos taken with men who the Special Projects Cell felt were involved in war crimes. International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991.

Commandant Walsh discusses the dynamics of his time in Rwanda and recalls getting to know the various people who were working to relieve the suffering there.

In this clip, Commandant Michael Walsh outlines his experience in Cadet School from November 1976 to December 1977. Michael outlines how his own background was helpful in confronting the challenges of Cadet School including spending his Saturday nights polishing his father's boots. His father had also been in the army. A cadet is a trainee who is training to become an officer in the military.

In this piece of audio, Commandant Michael Walsh recalls joining the FCA (Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil) in 1972 and outlines his early experiences of later joining 'C' Company of An Chéad Chathlán Coisithe (First Infantry Battalion). Speaks about his early duties in the Defence Forces which included operating as a Pay Clerk and other documentation. He joined the Defence Forces in 1976.

Commandant Michael Walsh speaks about his first overseas mission with the 57th Battalion in 1985 to the Lebanon at the rank of Captain. He reflects on the excitement of an overseas tour and his feelings on leaving home. He also discusses the sense of pride of representing Ireland overseas and also reflects on the dangers involved in such tours.