SPEECH BY MR. MICHAEL SMITH, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
AT THE CADET COMMISSIONING CEREMONY
FOR THE 76th CADET CLASS
I am delighted to be here in the Curragh today on what is one of the most important occasions in the Defence Forces' calendar. I want to begin by offering my sincere congratulations to the forty young men and women who have just received their commissions. Today is a very special day for them and their families. An indication of the importance of the Commissioning Ceremony is the fact that it was the President of Ireland who appointed these new officers. The Commissions have been signed by the President, by the Taoiseach and by myself as the Minister for Defence.
These cadets commenced their training in early October 1999 at the Cadet School in the Military College and have for the past twenty one months undergone a tough and comprehensive integrated course of training. Two of the cadets will take up appointments in the Equitation School in McKee Barracks and the remaining 38 young officers, of whom 6 are female, will take up their duties with Army Units countrywide.
The Cadet Course, by its nature, is very demanding. The cadets were expected to demonstrate initiative and leadership as well as a high standard of physical fitness. The successful completion of the course of instruction represents a major personal achievement for each individual member of the class. They are now highly trained, multi-skilled young officers ready to play their part in the leadership of the new, revitalised Defence Forces.
They will be expected to deal with a variety of issues such as management of personnel, peacekeeping, internal security operations in support of the Gardaí or providing assistance to local communities. These demands require that the young officers have the best possible preparation, training and education. The training of cadets is wide and varied and this is designed to equip these young people with the best and most modern foundation for their careers as leaders in one of the most respected professions. An example of the range of courses run by the Defence Forces is the 7th UN Military Observer and Staff Officer Course, currently taking place in the UN School. A total of 19 countries are participating, including for the first time - Australia, China, Tonga, Israel and Mongolia. The course teaches the fundamentals of peacekeeping and UN organisation. Internationally this is seen as a prestigious course and the demand has meant that some countries have had to be turned away.
These young officers are becoming involved in an organisation which is changing and which will continue to change. Improvements are taking place in accommodation and equipment and these will continue as long as it is necessary to ensure that the best facilities are available for all personnel. One only has to take a look around the Curragh to see the level of investment that is taking place. More than a dozen construction contracts are underway here valued at about £35 million. Just over a week ago the first 6 out of 40 new armoured personnel carriers came into service. The Government's commitment to continuing the process of major investment in equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces means that more money than ever before is being made available for those purposes. Up to £250 million extra will be made available over the next 10 years to be spent on modernising equipment and infrastructure. The benefits will reach every aspect of military life.
The Oath taken here today by these young men and women is all embracing in its scope and content. They have sworn to be faithful to Ireland and loyal to the Constitution, to obey all lawful orders and not to be members of, or subscribe to, political organisations or secret societies. The Oath is the bedrock on which the Defence Forces has loyally served the State. It follows from the terms of the Oath that there can be no limitation in the matter of their commitment to the service of the State. It distinguishes them from others and it requires others under their command to make the same commitment in the performance of their duty.
The opportunity for third level studies afforded to young army officers is in keeping with best international practice for officer training. The blending of the military and academic disciplines is considered the best preparation for officers for the complex and varied tasks which will be required at home and abroad. Overseas, the service rendered by Irish troops - a proud record of professionalism, courage and patience in the face of adversity - is a particular source of pride to Irish people. Irish officers have served and continue to serve with distinction in senior appointments in the United Nations and other organisations. At present 819 officers, NCO's and privates are serving overseas. In the years ahead the young cadets here today will take their turn representing Ireland in United Nations missions working in the cause of peace. I have every confidence that they will continue the outstanding tradition in the Defence Forces.
As I have said, this is an important day in the lives of these young officers here before us today. It is a day when they and their families are entitled to feel justly proud. They have chosen a very challenging and rewarding career and I hope you all enjoy the many positive and enjoyable aspects of military life. Foremost amongst these are comradeship and the very highest level of job satisfaction which comes from leading and guiding others. Congratulations and well done to everybody.
Before concluding I would like to thank the Commandant of the Military College, Colonel Michael Lucey, and the Officers and NCO's of the Cadet School. The staff of the school are entrusted with the future of the Defence Forces and the committment and the dedication which they bring to their work is reflected in the exemplary standard of the junior leaders produced by the school.
I would also like to thank everyone connected with the organisation behind this afternoon's ceremony and to thank the Army Band under the baton of Captain Mark Armstrong for providing the excellent music which greatly enhanced the Commissioning Ceremony.