An Irish D-Day veteran has been presented with the highest honour that can be bestowed by the French government at a ceremony in Cork.

Patrick Gillen, 89, was recognised with the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur at the ceremony at the Mercy Hospital.

The honour is made in recognition for courage and gallantry and for participating in the liberation of France.

One of Ireland's last surviving D-Day veterans, Mr Gillen was part of the Allied troop force which landed at Normandy on 6 June 1944.

He enlisted at 18 and was part of a regiment of French and US commandos who landed and fought on Sword beach on what is regarded as one of the most celebrated days in wartime history.

At today’s ceremony, French Ambassador Jean Pierrre-Thebault, said it was a very rare occasion to present the Legion d'Honneur, to acknowledge Mr Gillen’s courage and sacrifice, and to remember that sacrifice for future generations.

Mr Gillen said he was humbled and honoured to receive the award on behalf of his family and all the comrades who had fought with him but who had died.

"In accepting this award, other brave Irish men, thousands of young men, who lost their lives in pursuit of peace remain in my memory," he said.

"This award is as much theirs as mine."

He said he had returned to Normandy to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of D-Day, but ill health had prevented him doing so this year.

He thanked all those present for the occasion and the Mercy Hospital for facilitating the ceremony.

During the emotional ceremony, Mr Gillen told his family, Mr Thebault and hospital staff that when he landed 70 years ago it was the first time he had put feet on French soil.

"By the grace of God, I survived to be here today while many of my friends sleep in the fields of France," he added.

"I feel both extremely honoured and humbled in receiving the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur conferred on me by President (Francois) Hollande  and the government of France."

Mr Gillen's father and two uncles fought in France during World War I and he lost two cousins there in World War II.

The rifleman, now a father of four and grandfather of 12, was in 6 Commando, a unit tasked with securing the strategically important Pegasus Bridge near Caen.

More than half of his brigade were casualties in vicious assaults by German forces.

He was never injured despite, like all commandos, wearing his green beret in a six-mile trek from Sword beach to Pegasus through marshland, sniper positions, a bogus minefield and several weeks in the trenches at Saulnier.