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Speech by the Minister of State at the Department of Defence,
Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D., on the occasion of Opening of the Conference
“Military Education in the 21st Century” and the launch of the academic publication
‘Building a Better Future: Contributions by the Irish Defence Forces’
on 8 March 2012

It is a great pleasure for me to be with you here this evening at the opening of this important conference relating to military education in the 21st Century and the launch of the academic publication ‘Building a Better Future: Contributions by the Irish Defence Forces’.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all those participating in the conference, particularly those who have come from Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom and the USA. I hope you enjoy the conference and have a pleasant stay in Ireland.

This afternoon I had the very great privilege of participating in the Commissioning Ceremony for the 87th Cadet Class. The young officers commissioned have just completed a chapter in their military education. Over the coming years each of them will spend time, both here in the Defence Forces Training College and other educational institutions, enhancing the many skills they learned during their cadet training.

The business consultant and writer, Peter Drucker wrote “knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly or it vanishes”.

The Defence Forces is a learning organisation that is committed to lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is now part of the currency of personal development across the world. Apart from educating its workforce, the learning organisation is also self-examining. It evaluates and initiates internal change to maintain its advancement into the future.

Over the last decade a number of measures have been taken to further improve the quality of education provided in the Command and Staff School. The establishment of the Masters of Arts in Leadership, Management & Defence Studies and the commencement of the strategic education partnership with the National University of Ireland Maynooth, - NUIM - has contributed greatly, not only to the standard of education, but also to the good standing of the Defence Forces in various circles of public, academic and business life. The Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth and the Command and Staff School here at the Curragh have been particularly involved in these initiatives. The introduction of the Strategic Leadership course in 2008 which is pitched at doctoral level has continued this positive developmental momentum. Both the Academic Conference on Military Education for the 21st Century and the academic publication ‘Building a Better Future: Contributions by the Irish Defence Forces’ a seminal book on Defence Forces engagements, which are being launched this evening, have been arranged to celebrate the tenth year of the dynamic and successful partnership between the Defence Forces and the National University of Ireland Maynooth. The significant number of graduates from the partnership courses together with many members of the Defence Forces who have privately undertaken studies outside the organisation up to and including doctoral level has created a large pool of intellectual capital within the organisation.

I would like to congratulate the Command & Staff School, in association with NUIM in taking this initiative. I hope this Academic Conference will help to further improve educational standards, consistent with best international military practice, and will further consolidate and develop the link between educational advances and the development and modernisation of Defence Forces capabilities essential to delivering on the roles assigned to them by Government.

The purpose of this Conference is to promote the high quality, relevant research for the Defence Forces. This will have the added benefit of promoting awareness of the activities of the Defence Forces, promoting positive relationships with academic institutions outside the Defence Forces; and promoting the Military College as an active centre of research on essential Defence Forces capabilities. The conference also seeks to complement activities undertaken jointly with the Defence Forces strategic academic partner, the National University of Ireland Maynooth.

This Conference, as I have already said, marks the 10th anniversary of a joint strategic education partnership between the Defence Forces and NUI Maynooth. It is the first of its kind and represents an important step in encouraging critical thinking and high quality research as well as establishing the credentials of the Military College and the Defence Forces Training Centre as centres of excellence in military education. In an uncertain, complex and rapidly changing world, the ability to think critically is vital for all military personnel. It is no longer enough to be just technically competent and knowledgeable – a different mindset is required in this new environment.

Tonight’s event also sees the launch of ‘Building a Better Future: Contributions by the Irish Defence Forces’ a joint academic publication by academics from NUIM and members of the Defence Forces – both serving and retired. This volume reflects the breadth and variety of contexts in which the Irish Defence Forces are engaged. It also comments on a wide range of issues which are core to the conduct both of defence and peacekeeping in a postmodern world. Furthermore it also highlights some of the high quality research being undertaken by members of the Defence Forces in a wide range of areas. In doing so it validates the initiative undertaken by the Defence Forces and NUIM in establishing a strategic academic partnership. I congratulate all the authors from NUIM and the Defence Forces who have contributed to this worthwhile and valuable publication.

Before concluding, I would also like to congratulate the organisers of the conference from both NUIM and the Military College for their foresight and initiative in organising this significant event. I wish the conference well in its deliberations.

Thank you.


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