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Speech by the
Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence,
Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D.,
at the
Air Corps Commissioning Ceremony, Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel
on 14 December, 2012.

Secretary General, Chief of Staff, General Officer Commanding the Air Corps, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to be present here today at Baldonnel to participate in a very important event for the Air Corps and in particular for the three young officers who have successfully completed their training. It is a very special day for Neil, David and Paul and I offer my warmest congratulations to you all.

I would also like to welcome the families and friends of those who are being commissioned; this is a proud day for you and your loved ones. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of my Oireachtas colleagues, Derek Keating and Robert Dowds, along with the Deputy Mayor of South Dublin County Council, Cllr. Gus O Connell.

I particularly wish to extend a warm welcome to Donal and Liz Jevens and family and friends to mark the occasion of the inaugural award of the Cadet Jevens Ground School Memorial Trophy, which I understand was presented earlier.

The scrolls I have just presented indicate that each of you is now a commissioned officer of Óglaigh na hÉireann. The solemn oath you took today, to be faithful to the Irish nation and to uphold the Constitution, marks you out from every other profession. I know that none of you have undertaken these responsibilities lightly.

Today’s ceremony is an important milestone in the education and training of the 29th Air Corps Cadet Class. The programme commenced in December 2010 and we stand here today, 24 months later, with young leaders who through rigorous academic, practical and physical education and training, have been determined suitable for commissioning as Officers of the Air Corps.

Earlier today each of the three newly commissioned officers was presented with their military pilot “Wings” in official recognition of their qualification as pilots.

Education and Training is very important in all walks of life. The provision of high quality education and training is paramount in the wider Defence Forces. In particular, the Air Corps cadetship produces Pilot Officers who are of the highest standard, are internationally recognised and are expected to continue learning throughout their career. This life-long learning is required to ensure that the Air Corps is equipped to meet the future needs of Government and society.

The 29th Cadet Class is made up of young men from various backgrounds and experiences. These new Officers will serve to further add to the rich range of talents and experience currently held within the officer body and the men and women of the Air Corps. As they now begin the first step of their journey as commissioned officers, I wish them well in their future careers with the Air Corps.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone here today that we live in difficult and challenging economic times. What I can say is that during this period in our history the Defence Forces have not been found wanting in terms of contributing to the process of addressing the challenges we have and continue to face.

The considerable modernisation and efficiency achieved by the Defence Forces and the wider Defence Organisation is rightly held as a model for public sector reform. The Air Corps has played its part in this regard. As officers you must continue to discharge that role identifying new efficiencies and improving effectiveness in discharging the roles of the Air Corps, in ensuring the safety and security of our State and our citizens.

The fundamental role of our Air Corps is to support, from the air, the Army and Naval Service in the successful execution of their operations. The Air Corps also has a vital sovereignty role to perform in our airspace, over sea and land, to deter its use or abuse by those with malicious intent. Within the bounds of its equipment, the Air Corps must undertake these tasks effectively while also training new personnel to carry out these tasks into the future.

The Air Corps makes an important contribution across a wide variety of roles assigned by Government. The success of the Air Corps in the areas of air transport, fishery protection, air ambulance, support to the Army and Naval Service and the provision of aid to the civil power is clear for all to see. These high profile roles have the added benefit of conveying the importance of the Air Corps to the wider community.

The Government is committed to continuing to support the Air Corps to ensure that it is capable of fulfilling the range of tasks assigned to it. To this end the continuous recruitment and training of good people are essential. In this regard I am delighted that a Cadetship competition was held recently to recruit a total of 5 Air Corps Cadets who have commenced their training and that we will shortly commence the process of inducting 20 Air Corps Apprentices.

Today is a celebration of real achievement and marks the passing of a great milestone in the lives of these new officers. I would like to pay tribute to the staff of the Military College and the Flying Training School involved in preparing these cadets for officer duty. They deserve a special mention for the care and dedication, which they brought to the task of developing and nurturing these young people for their future careers. The fruits of their labour stand before us today and they can be proud of the good work they have done.

My thanks also to everyone involved here today in the arrangements for this impressive ceremony particularly, the Army No. 1 Band under the baton of Captain Declan Whitston.

Today, however, belongs primarily to these new officers. They are charged with providing leadership and guidance to others, a responsibility, I have no doubt they will discharge with integrity and excellence.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day.

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