President Mary McAleese has unveiled a life-size bronze statue of the former Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lt Gen Dermot Earley, in his home village of Gortaganny, Co Roscommon.

Mr Earley passed away in June 2010.

The statue, by sculptor Séamus Connolly, depicts Mr Earley from his time as a Roscommon Gaelic footballer.

About 1,500 people attended the unveiling ceremony and among them were Mr Earley’s wife Mary and his mother Kitty.

Mrs Earley said it was a proud but sad day for the family.

President McAleese said Dermot Earley was one of the finest men ever born on this island.

She described him as 'a devoted family man, a renowned sporting hero, an outstanding soldier, an inspiring leader, a man gifted with a unique West of Ireland charm and a tremendous ambassador for Ireland wherever he went in the world.'

The statue cost about €40,000 but the local development company, which fundraised to erect it, said it had no difficulty raising the money.