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Comments by the Minister for Defence, Willie O’Dea T.D. at the
Launch of the Defence Forces Annual Report for 2005.
McKee Barracks, Dublin.

28 June 2006
Chief of Staff, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am very pleased to be present at this event and to accept a copy the Defence Forces Annual Report, 2005 from the Chief of Staff.

I know that you have had a briefing on the Report earlier, so I do not propose to go into in any great detail here. However, I would, draw your attention to a number of significant developments that took place in 2005:

In January 2005, I signed contracts for six new helicopters for the Air Corps, costing over €60m. Two Light Utility Helicopters (EC135s) were delivered late last year and have entered operational service.

In May 2005, I concluded an agreement with the Banks that will see them repaying the full costs of Defence Forces cash escort duties to the Department.

On 30th June last, almost a year to the day, we were reminded of the risks of soldiering when we learned of the tragic loss of Trooper James Dillon in a training accident on the Curragh.

In September 2005, the first ever Ombudsman for the Defence Forces was appointed by Government.

In October 2005, I launched the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan.

In December 2005, I obtained Government and Dáil approval to allow members of the Irish Permanent Defence Forces serving as part of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to be deployable to Sierra Leone in a new extended role for UNMIL. The role, provided for under UN Security Council Resolution 1638, will be to provide security detail for the Special Court in Freetown and to evacuate officials in the event of a serious security crisis which could be likely.

Later in December, a contract was placed with Mowag GmbH of Switzerland for the supply of fifteen additional Piranha Armoured Vehicles to the Defence Forces. Under the contract, Mowag will supply fifteen vehicles, nine of which will be fitted with a 2.7mm machine gun and six will be fitted with a turret armed with a 30mm cannon. The contract is valued at some €37m.

Also during 2005, orders were placed for 400 General Purpose Machine Guns; also
6,000 units of body armour and 12,000 helmets for the individual soldier.

The ongoing programmes of acquisitions of both Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) equipment and Night Vision Equipment (NVE) continued during 2005.

2005 also saw a number of major capital and expenditure projects come to fruition.
In the past 8 years, my Department has spent almost €300m on the Defence infrastructure upgrade and maintenance programme.

I note with pleasure that the Defence Forces have managed to double the percentage intake of women officer cadets in the past five years. I am keen to see the number of women in the Defence Forces increase significantly, but I know that this will take time. For the moment, although the numbers remain small, at least the trend is in the right direction. In this context too, I am pleased to see the progress made in the provision of a safer and more supportive work environment for all Defence Forces personnel.

The role played by the Defence Forces on peace support missions overseas is a major source of pride to everyone. Last year, the average number of Defence Forces personnel serving overseas was 770 and in all a total of 2,204 Defence Force personnel served overseas.

This vital and important work will continue into the future. Earlier today I steered the Defence Amendment Bill through its second stage in the Seanad. When enacted, this will amongst other things, update and amend the definition of “International United Nations Force”, as provided for in current legislation. The amendment will reflect the changes in the organisation and structure of forces deployed on peace support operations by the UN, in particular, the use of regional organisations to organise forces to undertake peace support operations under a UN Security Council Resolution.

It is important to ensure that future participation in peace support operations is not precluded due to the specific form of language in a UN Security Council Resolution.

I congratulate the Chief of Staff, Lt Gen. Sreenan, and the Headquarters staff for producing this excellent and informative Report. The Chief of Staff has performed his role as the principal military adviser to me as Minister for Defence thoroughly and conscientiously through 2005 and I appreciate his unwavering commitment to his statutory role.

Finally, may I take this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding leadership given to Óglaigh na hÉireann by the Chief of Staff and his deputies: Major Generals Nash and Earley.

Thank you very much.

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