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Speech by Minister Willie O’Dea on his
Visit to Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick

7th February 2005

Secretary-General, Chief of Staff, distinguished guests, members of 12th Infantry Battalion, ladies and gentlemen.

I am immensely proud and pleased to be commencing my nationwide programme of Barrack visits here in Limerick. Limerick is often referred to as a Garrison town as it has a long history of association with the military – both our own and that of some uninvited guests in the past.

Throughout the city’s history the military has been a major influence on the economy of the region: from King John’s Castle in the 12th century to the “Castle” and “Ordnance” Barracks in the 18th century to today’s Sarsfield Barracks.

Both Sarsfield Barracks and the members of the 12th Infantry battalion are an immense source of pride to the people of Limerick .I am most pleased today to be here both as Minister and local representative to acknowledge your contribution to the life in Limerick.

As the Chief of Staff and Lt Col McMahon will be aware I have specifically asked for these visits be as informal as possible so I can have the opportunity to meet and talk with as many members of the Defence Forces as possible.

Since my appointment as Minister for Defence last September I have had the opportunity to visit a number of Defence Force locations. At each and everyone one of these I have been deeply impressed by the commitment and professionalism of our military personnel across all ranks. Today is no exception.

Last November I was most pleased to review the 92nd Infantry battalion of the Southern Brigade before it left for service with the United Nations mission in Liberia. This, of course, included a number of your comrades from Sarsfield Barracks. I was delighted to meet with them and their families individually on that occasion. I was also greatly pleased to be able to meet up with many of them again when I visited Liberia with President Mary McAleese last December.

They are doing incredible work there and are, like you here today, an immense source of pride to us all.

The past seven years have seen an unprecedented level of investment in Defence Forces training and equipment. This investment programme is continuing in 2005. I was most pleased to be able to secure over €33.5 million in this year’s Defence Department estimates for Building work – both capital and non-capital.

I am particularly pleased to see that a considerable portion will be spent here at Sarsfield Barracks.

I know from the Army’s Directorate of Engineering that they proceeding to tender for the refurbishment work on the cookhouse and privates club and that they hope to commence that work this summer. I am also delighted the upgrade of the other ranks accommodation is ongoing.

I understand that these two projects will together cost somewhere in the region of €3.5 million.

I should also mention the excellent work that has been ongoing at the Barracks here. Only last week I received a very nice letter from the Limerick Civic Trust praising the work that has been done at the barracks, particularly the removal of overgrowth along Edward Street. Everyone concerned in this work is deserving of great praise and recognition.

Continuing investment in Defence Forces equipment, infrastructure and training is vitally important. I intend to continue and develop this investment programme.

So far this year I have signed contracts for the purchase of six new helicopters valued at €60 million. Later this year the Department will commence the process of inviting tenders for the supply of light tactical vehicles as the Military Authorities have identified the acquisition of these as a key priority.

Since 2002 we have completed the purchase of:
8 new Pilatus aircraft costing €60million,
65 Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers costing €84m
The Javelin anti-armour missile system costing €13m and due for delivery in mid 2005
These are in addition to our ongoing purchase of defensive equipment.

In conclusion, may I thank Lieutenant Colonel McMahon, his staff and everyone in the 12th Infantry Battalion at Sarsfield Barracks for making my visit here today such a pleasant and enjoyable one.

I want to wish you all well and look forward to visiting with you again soon.

ENDS


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