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Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick 1 October 2005

Secretary-General, Chief of Staff, distinguished guests, members of the Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome you all to Sarsfield Barracks this afternoon for an event of great significance in the annals of the Defence Forces. Because this afternoon we are bidding an affectionate farewell to the FCÁ and the Slua Muirí and welcoming into being the new Army Reserve (Cúltaca an Airm) and the new Naval Service Reserve (Cúltaca An tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh) that will replace them.

It is an event that will cause mixed emotion: some sadness at the ending of an era but a renewed optimism for the future as the positive impacts of the changes that are being introduced, become increasingly evident. This reorganisation of the Reserve involves a new three Brigade structure with a Reserve Defence Force Training Authority. This means that, henceforth, the Reserve will be organised along similar lines to the Permanent Defence Force,

The Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan officially launched in July 2004, set out an ambitious programme of reform and modernisation for the Reserve over the period to the end of 2009. The reorganised Reserve that we usher in today represents a critical milestone in that implementation process.

The target date for completing this phase of the Implementation Plan was the first of October 2005. And the fact that this deadline has been met is a testament to the professionalism and hard work of all those personnel - R.D.F, P.D.F. and Departmental staff involved. I am very grateful to them for their efforts. I would also like to credit all of the Defence Forces Representative Associations – but in particular, RDFRA - for their constructive engagement with the reorganisation process.

The reorganisation process has involved the disestablishment and amalgamation of Reserve units across the country. A critical factor in this process was to ensure that the new organisation took due cognisance of the previous geographical spread of Reserve Units. I am pleased to note that the military authorities made consultation and communication a high priority for this aspect of the plan. This helped to ensure that the process was completed in as painless a manner as was possible. This approach of consultation and communication will continue into the future as further elements of the plan are rolled out.

The Implementation Plan highlighted the importance of high quality training for enhancing the capability of the Reserve. Consequently, the establishment of the Reserve Defence Force Training Authority alongside the Defence Forces Training Centre is an important development in ensuring the standardisation of training, which is a key element in improving interoperability. Much work has been completed on the revision of training syllabi and work continues on the development of innovative training solutions that meet the needs of members of the Reserve.

The twinning of Reserve and PDF units will provide enhanced access to specialised equipment and expertise that will also improve the quality of training available to members of the Reserve. The importance of training is also reflected in the increased financial allocation over recent year. The current provision of 114,000 paid training days represents an 80% increase over the 1998 allocation and further increases in this allocation, subject to financial prioritisation within the overall military budget, are provided for in the plan.

Notwithstanding the fine work that has been done to date, it is important to recognise that, although we have reached an important milestone, there is still a lot of unfinished business to be completed over the remaining period of the plan. The reorganised Reserve that we launch today provides a crucial platform for this future change. The developments of the integrated element of the Reserve as well as the development of policies to support the selection of suitable reserve personnel for overseas duties are other important elements of the plan that require continued effort going forwards. Other aspects of the plan such as improvements in clothing and equipment have already produced visible and tangible improvements and these programmes, which have run concurrently with the reorganisation process, will continue.

Although the changes described outline a very positive future for the Reserve, I must admit to feeling a little bit nostalgic at the passing of the FCÁ and Slua Muirí. The loyalty and dedication that was exhibited by the members of these organisations down through the years and the “can do” attitude that was a universal characteristic in units throughout the country stands testament to the unselfish spirit of voluntary service, of which these organisations were exemplary examples.

It is this spirit of volunteerism that reminds me that, despite the great work that is undertaken by members of the PDF involved with the Reserve, the lifeblood of the Reserve is its volunteers. Week in week out, these volunteers selflessly devote their spare time in the national interest. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and that of the Government to the members of the Reserve, past and present, for your commitment and service.

The continued rollout of the implementation plan is, as I outlined, creating substantial and radical change to the Reserve. I am keenly aware that any significant organisational change can cause concern and uncertainty. Similar concerns and uncertainty were evident when the Permanent Defence Force was recently reorganised.

Today however, there is a widespread recognition that these changes brought significant improvements to the PDF and I am confident that the same will apply to the Reserve. It is my sincere belief that by retaining the spirit of the old Reserve - coupled with the improvements that the Implementation Plan is bringing to bear - we will ensure that the new Reserve will be as good as - if not better than - other Reserve Forces throughout the world. It is true to say that the Permanent Defence Force is a world-class organisation and I can see no reason why the same will not apply to the Reserve. I know that the members of the Reserve will not be found wanting in pursuing this ambitious goal.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you all for coming here today and to assure you that I will continue to drive the ongoing implementation of the plan as we move forwards. I look forward to marking other important milestones in the reorganisation process as they are reached.

Thank you all very much.


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