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Secretary General, Chief of Staff, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be in Cathal Brugha Barracks this afternoon at an event of great significance for the Reserve Defence Force.

Today’s ceremony marks both the accomplishment of the 20 new officers who have just received their commissions, and the resultant benefit to the Reserve Force from the infusion of 20 talented and well qualified leaders to its ranks.

These 20 men and women are receiving their commissions at a time of unprecedented change and development through the entire Defence organisation. As officers of the Reserve, they will take up their leadership roles in an element of the Defence Forces that is a key component of the White Paper implementation process. The launch of the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan in July means that there has never been a more exciting and challenging time to become an officer in the Reserve. Each and every one of the newly commissioned officers will play their full part in promoting and steering the change agenda at a local level.

This ceremony is the culmination of a thorough programme of training and preparation by all concerned. In order to attain the very high standard of excellence required to become an officer you have all undergone a demanding course of instruction in military and related subjects. The training placed great reliance on individual discipline and on the ability to lead and operate military forces in pressure situations. To succeed in the course and qualify for a commission each of you must have displayed all of the military skills, leadership qualities and the commitment required of an officer of the Defence Forces.

Today’s ceremony marks not only a significant achievement in terms of successfully completing a very thorough programme of training, but also the culmination of your years of commitment and service to the Reserve Forces. Between you, you have contributed 167 years of service to the Reserve. So you are taking up your duties as newly commissioned officers in an organisation that you believe in and one to which you are deeply committed.

The Reserve is deeply rooted in local communities and its members are drawn from all walks of life. A glance at the backgrounds and occupations represented here today bears this out. Among the new officers we have electricians, teachers, students, engineers, financial sector employees and public servants. The addition of this wide and impressive range of practical and professional skills to the officer ranks of the Reserve will enrich and enhance its military and organisational capabilities.

The launch of the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation plan last July marked a new departure for the Reserve. The plan has its genesis in the report of the Steering Group on the Reserve. This comprehensive review provided an excellent overview of the structures and functions of the Reserve. In addition, it set out an extensive, detailed and persuasively argued case for new initiatives and radical change.

The Plan highlighted typical characteristics of the Reserve such as the spirit of voluntary commitment, the maintaining of strong links with local communities and a nation-wide geographical spread. As the new plan progresses, these characteristics will, as far as possible, be retained in the restructured and reorganized organisation.

The implementation of this new plan will take about six years to complete – it is a substantial undertaking. As well as restructuring the way that the Reserve is organised and trained, it is important that its members will both look and feel that they are part of a modern force. Equipment levels have been enhanced and it is intended over time to achieve standardisation and inter-operability between the Permanent Defence Force and Reserve Defence Force in respect of both dress and personal equipment. The effects of this progress are more evident each year.

Today we celebrate the future of the Reserve Forces as these new officers embark on their leadership roles at an exciting time of change and opportunity. The dedication and commitment of those who have moulded these men and women into officers must be acknowledged. They deserve a special mention for the care and dedication which they brought to the task of developing these young people for their future roles and I would like to thank all those involved, throughout the country, for their fine work.

Today however, belongs primarily to these new officers. They are charged with providing leadership and guidance to others, a responsibility they will, I have no doubt, discharge with excellence. To their families and friends who are here today, you are all very welcome - this is a proud day for you and your loved ones. I hope that you will remember this ceremony with pride and with pleasure for many years to come.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the day.

Cathal Brugha Barracks 7 November 2004

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