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Speech by Mr Willie O’Dea T.D., Minister for Defence
at the commissioning cermony for the 45th Naval Service Cadet Class

Thursday 6th September 2007

Secretary General, Chief of Staff, Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman: I am delighted to be back in Haulbowline today for this most important event in the Naval Service calendar. It is a day of great significance for the young officers who have just been commissioned as Ensigns of the Naval Service. I want to offer my warmest congratulations to all of them. Today is a very special day for Brendan, Colm, Niall, Shane and Aisling and their families.

These young people have just taken an oath to be faithful to the Irish Nation and the Constitution. This solemn undertaking marks them out from other professions and I know that they have not taken on these responsibilities lightly.

This ceremony is testament to their commitment, dedication and above all, hard work. Having successfully completed their Cadet training, the members of the 45th Naval Service Cadet Class have risen to the challenge of a rigorous training programme which tested their determination, staying power and resilience to the limit. Their training has equipped them with the skills necessary to meet the many and varied challenges that they will encounter in the course of their Naval careers.

These new officers take up duty at a time of exciting change for the Defence Forces. The continuing implementation of the White Paper on Defence has transformed the capacity of the Defence Forces to meet the challenges of the modern era at home and abroad.

The benefits of this ten-year initiative are already evident. There has been substantial investment in infrastructure and equipment across all areas of the Defence Forces. In fact, immediately prior to this ceremony I had the pleasure of officially opening the historic Block 6; which has just been refurbished and upgraded - at a cost of €3.16 million - as the new combined Headquarters building for the Naval Service.

At the end of August I launched a tender competition for a new Naval Service Replacement Programme. This Programme represents the single biggest investment in Defence Forces equipment in the history of the State. We will be purchasing two Offshore Patrol Vessels and one Extended Patrol Vessel with options for one additional vessel in each category.
It is vitally important that the Naval Service has the equipment and resources it needs to meet the demands placed on it. These new vessels will ensure that the Naval Service will be equipped to protect our waters and our fisheries and meet Ireland’s obligations in the area of maritime safety and security.

The ships will replace existing Naval vessels the LE Emer, LE Aoife and the Le Aisling which will fall due for replacement over the next 3 to 5 years. I expect a contract to be placed in late 2008 with delivery over the following 2 to 4 years.

I am delighted to say that we are getting a good return on our investment. Last year, the Naval Service achieved a total of 1,658 patrol days with over 90% focused on fishery protection.

In the course of these patrols, a total of 1,897 vessels were boarded, 19 were detained and 148 warnings were issued. These outputs reveal a focused and committed Naval Service that is continuing to produce high levels of performance. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each member of the Naval Service for their contribution to this impressive performance.

The Naval Service makes an important contribution across the wide variety of roles assigned to it by the Government in areas such as fishery protection, search and rescue, the provision of aid to the civil power – especially drug intervention. These high profile roles have the added benefit of conveying the importance of the Naval Service to the wider community.

Today is a celebration of achievement and it marks the passing of a milestone in the lives of these five new officers. As officers of the Naval Service you have chosen a very challenging and demanding career – but one that is also very fulfilling and rewarding.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Commandant of the Naval Service College, Commander Mark Mellet, the Class Officer, Lt. Marie Gleeson, class NCO, Petty Officer John McCormack and all of the staff of the college for their efforts.

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 Lt. Brian Prendergast for 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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