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Secretary General, Deputy Chief of Staff, Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman I am delighted to be in Haulbowline today to participate in a very important event for the Naval Service and for the young men who have successfully completed their Cadet training.

Each annual Commissioning Ceremony marks the coming of age of a new generation of leaders. Having been selected to serve their country, the men of the 43rd Naval Service Cadet Class have risen to the challenge of a rigorous programme of preparation and training.

Over the last two years, their resolve, fortitude and stamina have been tested to the limit. The scrolls that I have just presented signify that each of the members of the 43rd Cadet Class is now a commissioned officer of the Permanent Defence Forces.
To reach this memorable day is a significant achievement by each officer and, I have no doubt, is also a matter of great and lasting pride to their families.

As newly commissioned officers, you have just taken an oath that pledges each one of you to be faithful to the Irish nation and the Constitution. This solemn undertaking marks you out from every other profession and I know that you have not taken on these responsibilities lightly. Your training as military leaders of the future in the modern Irish Naval Service will have equipped you with the skills necessary to face the many and varied challenges that will confront you.

Today’s ceremony is the culmination of two years of commitment, hard work and study by these young men. They have undergone a rigorous training program that covered a range of military, nautical and academic subjects. Their training commenced in September 2003 and involved courses at the Military College in the Curragh, at the Naval Base here in Haulbowline and in the National Maritime College of Ireland just across the water from us in Ringaskiddy.

Indeed these young officers were the first to be able to avail of the state-of-the-art facilities in the new National Maritime College that opened last October. This newly built educational institution – came about as the result of a unique partnership between my Department – which provided the land – and a Private-Public Partnership involving the Department of Education, Cork Institute of Technology and the Naval Service. The College is one of the most sophisticated centres for maritime education in Europe with world-class training facilities that serve the needs of both the Naval Service and the Institute.

These new officers take up duty at a time of exciting change for the Defence Forces. We are now half way through the implementation of the White Paper on Defence. This blueprint is transforming the capacity of the Defence Forces to meet the challenges of the modern era at home and abroad. Already, the benefits of this ten-year initiative have already been extensive and significant. There has been substantial investment in infrastructure and equipment across all areas of the Defence Forces.
And the organisational changes set out in the White Paper and reiterated in the Programme for Government are making good progress. The adoption of these internal reforms is essential to the viability of the Defence Forces going forward.

And other changes are happening too! I am pleased to announce the formal launch of the Designated Contact Persons (DCP’s) scheme that took place this morning in the Defence Forces Training Centre at the Curragh. Late last year the Defence Forces initiated a training programme for DCP’s to further progress the recommendations of the Doyle Report.

Today the Defence Forces have 190 fully trained personnel in place throughout the organisation, ready to deal with issues of an interpersonal nature. This is evidence of further significant steps being taken within the Defence Forces to deal with the small but very damaging incidents of inappropriate behaviour that may occur from time to time.

In the White Paper, the Government decided that the Naval Service would be developed around the provision of an eight-ship flotilla. In recent years, two new ships have been delivered to the Naval Service and the Service is operating with the recommended eight ships. There is a continuous process of refurbishment of the current fleet and the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a very high level.

The Naval Service makes an important contribution across a wide variety of roles assigned by Government. The performance of the Naval Service in the areas of fishery protection, search and rescue, the provision of aid to the civil power - especially for drug intervention - highlights the wisdom of the Government’s decision to assign these responsibilities to a highly capable organisation like the Naval Service, rather than to a number of different specialist forces. These high profile roles have the added benefit of conveying the importance of the Naval Service to the wider community.

Last year, the Naval Service recorded 1,568 patrol days, of which 95% were spent on fishery protection. This was a 9% increase over the total patrol days for 2003. In the course of these patrols, a total of 1,885 vessels were boarded, 31 detained and 124 warnings were issued. These outputs reveal a Naval Service that is continuing to produce high levels of professionalism and performance.

The Government remains committed to continuous investment in the equipment needs of the Naval Service that will maintain the eight-ship flotilla.

Today is a celebration of real achievement and marks the passing of a great milestone in the lives of these new officers. Of course the dedication and commitment of those who have helped to mould these young men into officers over the last 24 months should be acknowledged and I would like to thank the Commandant of the Naval Service College, Commander Touhy and all of his staff, for all of their efforts.

Today however, belongs primarily to these new officers. They are charged with providing leadership and guidance to others, a responsibility they will, I have no doubt, discharge with excellence. To their families and friends who are here today, you are all very welcome - this is a proud day for you and your loved ones. I hope that you will remember today with pride and with pleasure for many years to come.

Finally I would like to compliment everyone involved here today in the arrangements for this impressive ceremony, with particular thanks to the Band of the 1st Southern Brigade, under the baton of Sergeant Major Billy Coffey for providing the splendid music that has added greatly to the enjoyment of this ceremony.

Thank you and I hope that you enjoy the rest of the day.

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