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Secretary General, Chief of Staff, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman, I am delighted to be here today at the swearing-in ceremony for the new military judge – Colonel Michael Campion.

As all present here today will know anyone seeking to join the Defence Forces chooses a very challenging and demanding career but one that is also very fulfilling and rewarding. Each member takes a solemn oath to be faithful to Ireland and loyal to the Constitution marking them out from every other profession. In addition, each member undertakes to obey all lawful orders issued by a superior officer and to submit to the unique code of discipline which is an essential ingredient of military life.

The ability of the Defence Forces to continue to maintain the high standards demanded of them requires complete clarity with regard to the exercise of command authority whether at home or abroad. In order to maintain standards and rise to the challenges of a military environment and all of the associated tasks, it is important to uphold a chain of command that is clear and unambiguous at all times. Indeed this is critical to the maintenance of unit cohesion and operational effectiveness.

The importance of upholding an independent, effective and efficient system of military discipline cannot be underestimated. Discipline is the essence of a military force. Commanding Officers are responsible for discipline within their units. They exercise authority primarily through leadership and by inspiring the confidence, loyalty and trust of all those they command. This is underpinned by the legal authority given to commanders in respect of soldiers under their control.

In that regard, it goes without saying that the Defence Forces must retain the power to enforce discipline through its own unique code of discipline within the military justice system. This disciplinary code must be efficient and effective and above all else, it must be fair to the individual. The system of military discipline, which is provided for under Part V of the Defence Act 1954, was modernised by the Defence (Amendment) Act 2007. This Act brought military discipline procedures up to date to reflect developments and innovations both here in Ireland and internationally. Amongst the changes brought about by the 2007 Act was the provision for the post of military judge.

The first military judge appointed under those provisions, Col Tony McCourt, served with distinction in the post from September 2007 until his retirement in 2010.

In 2010 a number of issues were identified with regard to the operation of the military judicial system which needed to be addressed through legislation. These included the need to expand the potential candidature for appointment to the posts of military judge and the Director of Military Prosecutions to persons other than members of the Defence Forces and for an amendment to the powers of the Selection Committee to determine a candidate’s qualification for appointment to these posts.

This resulted in the drafting and enactment of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2011. It is under the provisions of this Act that the post of military judge was advertised in March of this year.

The Defence Acts now provide for the appointment of persons other than military personnel to be appointed to the post of military judge. Opening up the post to civilian applications was in my view an appropriate step in the ongoing modernisation of the Defence Forces and I am pleased that today we celebrate the swearing in to the position of military judge of the first person to be selected under the new open system of appointment, Col. Michael Campion.

Col. Campion has had a successful career to date as a solicitor and will now bring particular skills and expertise gained in private practice to the role of military judge. His service as an officer in the Reserve Defence Force will also provide him with the essential background knowledge of military practices and law necessary to fulfill the role.

It is also noteworthy that Col Campion comes from a military background, his father, Col Ned Campion, having formerly served as Commanding Officer of the Army Equitation School and Chef d’Equipe of the Irish show jumping team for a number of years.

I have no doubt his knowledge of the cut and thrust of civilian practice together with his military experience will see Col Campion serve with distinction in his new role as Military Judge.

Before concluding there is one further point I would like to make. The Defence (Amendment) Act 2011 also provided for the appointment of a Circuit Court Judge to perform the functions of the military judge, in circumstances where a military judge is not available. Earlier this year, under these new provisions, the then President of the Circuit Court, Mr. Justice Matthew Deery, agreed, following a request from me, to nominate Judge John D. O’Hagan to temporarily perform the functions of a military judge.

I would like to express here today my thanks to both Mr Justice Deery and Judge O’Hagan for their assistance in ensuring the continued functioning of the military justice system while the competition for the post of military judge was being held.

In conclusion, I would like to wish Col. Campion every success in his new appointment as military judge and I would now like to present him with his warrant of appointment.

Thank you.

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