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Speech by the Minister for Defence, Mr. Willie O’Dea, T.D. at the Commissioning Ceremony for the 27th Air Corps Cadet Class

Casement Aerodrome, 17th December 2009 Baldonnel

Secretary General, Deputy Chief of Staff, General Officer Commanding the Air Corps, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased and honoured to be at Casement Aerodrome for this most important ceremony.

While the commissioning of six new young officers into the commissioned ranks of the Air Corps is naturally a day of celebration, today’s ceremony is also touched with deep sadness and fond remembrance.

Today we pay tribute and do honour to the families of your two Air Corps colleagues, Captain Derek Furniss and Cadet David Jevens.
The cutting short of these two lives, at so young an age, is a loss felt not only by their own families and friends, but also by their Air Corps and Defence Forces colleagues.

The tragic events of 12th October not only took these two fine men from those they loved most of all, it also deprived the Defence Forces and the State of their potential contribution and achievements. For this to happen while Derek and David were in the service of their country; is a cause of deep regret and sadness to us all.

I want to welcome the parents and family of Cadet David Jevens and to thank them for joining us here in Casement Aerodrome this afternoon for what I know must be an extremely sad and difficult occasion for them. Earlier they were presented with David’s Wings. I can only hope and pray that this award will, in some small way, assist them in coping with their great loss. I once again offer my sincerest condolences to Liz, Donal, Sarah, Christopher and Niamh. I know that David will remain forever in the thoughts and in the hearts of everyone whose lives he touched.

Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a n-anaim.
* * * * * * * *
This is a day of great significance for Anthony, Vincent, Stephen, Gearoid, Bernard and Gearoid. You are, together with your families and friends, entitled to feel enormously proud of what you have achieved. I want to offer my warmest congratulations to each of you.

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

We have now just witnessed these six young officer pilots take an Oath to be faithful to the Irish Nation and the Constitution. This Oath distinguishes them from others and it requires others under their command to make the same commitment in the performance of their duty. They have chosen a career of service to their country - a career for which courage, commitment and professionalism will be their guiding light.

Today’s commissioning marks the culmination of 39 months of commitment, dedication and, above all, hard work. These six young men have been fully occupied since they first entered the 27th Air Corps Cadet Class. Their first stage of training at the Curragh Military College introduced them to military life. There they learned a multitude of skills alongside their Army and Naval counterparts as part of the 83rd Cadet Class.

These newly commissioned officers are the future of the Air Corps and it is with great pride they have been given the opportunity to continue the proud record of service to the nation by the Air Corps and its pilots.

I am, as Minister for Defence, delighted that the significant investment we have made in new equipment and aircraft in recent years. It means that the Air Corps is well placed to face the challenges posed by the current difficult economic environment. However, we must look at the efficiencies which all parts of the public sector can make, so as to continue to deliver high quality public services.

It remains my intention to ensure continued investment so we can protect the operational capability of the Defence Forces. This will involve difficult and painful decisions across the service as a whole. But it is most important that we protect and consolidate the important capability gains which have been delivered through the defence investment and modernisation programme of the past 10 years.

It is worth reflecting that the improved capabilities and capacity of the modern Defence Forces was delivered by a process of reform and modernisation that offers a template for future reform across the public service.

I intend, within the resources available, to retain the capacity of the Defence organisation to operate effectively across all roles. This will represent a significant challenge in the coming years and it is one in which all of us will need to work closely.

As I have already said, this is an important day for the six young people here before us today. As pilot officers of the Air Corps each of you has chosen a very challenging and demanding career – but one that is also very fulfilling and rewarding. I hope that you all will enjoy the many positive and enjoyable aspects of military life. Foremost amongst these are the comradeship, the challenges and the very high level of job satisfaction that comes from leading and serving others.

In conclusion, I’d like to take this opportunity to compliment all of your instructors from the Military College and the Flying Training School. Without their patience, dedication and experience this event could not have taken place. 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 Capt Fergal Carroll.

Congratulations to one and all and I hope that you enjoy the rest of the day.

Thank you.

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