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Speech by Sean Power, Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources at the
Commissioning Ceremony for the 84th Cadet Class

Military School, Curragh 21 January 2009

Secretary General, Chief of Staff, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen; I am delighted to be in the Curragh Camp today for this afternoon’s Commissioning Ceremony. My colleague, Minister O’Dea has asked me to pass on his best wishes to you all and to congratulate, on his behalf, these new young Officers who have just been commissioned. Unfortunately, he is unable to be present today due to Government business.

This day is a day of great significance for the young men and women who have just been commissioned into the Army. I want to offer my warmest congratulations to all of you. I know that many of you have a strong family links with the Defence Forces. You are, together with your families and friends, entitled to feel enormously proud of what you have achieved. Indeed, I am pleased to see so many here today to share this special day with each of them.

This 84th Cadet Class is made up of a mixture of school leavers, third level graduates and serving personnel. Many of you receiving your commissions today have previously served in either the Reserve or the Permanent Defence Forces and, in some cases, both. You are a multi-talented group of young officers.

Each Commissioning Ceremony marks the coming of age of a new generation of Defence Forces leaders. Having been selected to serve your country, you the young men and women of the 84th Cadet Class, have risen to the challenge of a rigorous programme of preparation and training. Reaching this memorable day is a significant achievement by you.

The scrolls I have just presented indicate that each of you are now commissioned officers of Óglaigh na hÉireann. The solemn oath you took a few moments ago, to be faithful to the Irish nation and to uphold the Constitution, marks you out from every other profession. This training you have received will equip you with the skills necessary to face the many and varied challenges you may encounter in the course of your military careers. I am proud to say that you have not taken on these responsibilities lightly.

As young cadets, joining the officer ranks, effective leadership skills will be ever more essential in the coming years in leading the Defence Forces through its ongoing modernisation. In the current difficult economic environment, we must achieve efficiencies in all parts of the public sector in order to deliver high quality public services within a more constrained financial resource envelope. The Defence Forces are widely recognised as having achieved considerable modernisation and efficiency in recent years. The Government has also ensured significant investment in infrastructure and equipment to copper-fasten the delivery of Defence Forces capability. I believe this enhances the capacity of the Defence Forces to continue to be a source of pride to Ireland while also contributing to the response to the current economic challenges.

Overseas service has become a core activity of the Defence Forces. Ireland's record of service with the United Nations is second to none. We have made, and continue to make, a significant contribution to peacekeeping operations throughout the world. Each overseas mission is a continuation of our honourable tradition of supporting the United Nations in the cause of peace and security. It is a tradition that has been built by the committed and dedicated service shown by you and your predecessors over the past 50 years and by our policy of military neutrality.

Our involvement in overseas missions has greatly enhanced the professional capacity and capability of the Defence Forces. This has, in turn, increased our value to the UN as a provider of quality professional forces with the strategic, political and operational experience of managing of multinational peace support operations.

You may be aware that members of the 99th Infantry Battalion are due to deploy to Chad in the coming weeks. This mission to Chad and the Central African Republic was launched in response to a request from the United Nations to address the major humanitarian crisis resulting from hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing persecution from neighbouring Darfur. Ireland has strongly supported this mission from the outset and is the second largest contributor of troops. The appointment of Acting Lt General Pat Nash as Operational Commander, as well as the significant part Ireland plays in the Operational Headquarters and our role in providing the Deputy Force Commander are evidence of the international recognition for Ireland’s professional capacity in managing difficult operations.

As you maybe aware, the mandate for this EUFOR mission is due to expire on the 15th March of this year. A United Nations “Blue Hat” mission is due to take over from the European Union mission on that date. On the 14th January the United Nations Security Council in New York unanimously approved the deployment of the some 5,500 United Nations peacekeepers to replace European troops in Chad and Central African Republic (CAR).

I very much welcome the authorising of a United Nations military component to follow-on the European Union Mission when its mandate expires. It is important that we do not have an interregnum in the security situation and continue to facilitate the UN’s Operation Planning and the Force Generation process. The Government has approved, in principle, the Defence Forces continued participation in the UN follow-on mission. Final approval will be considered in the context of the UN mandate, the extent to which other current EU Member States contribute to the follow-on mission and the level of logistics support that will be provided. Ireland will require, at a minimum, that the current level of logistical support available to Irish Defence Force personnel continues to be provided.

Today is a celebration of real achievement and marks the passing of a great milestone in the lives of these new officers. The dedication and commitment of those who have moulded these young men and women into officers must be acknowledged. I want to thank the Commandant of the Military College: Col James Goulding, the Class Officer: Commandant Darragh O’Brien, Company Sergeant Fagan and all of their colleagues in the Cadet School, for their excellent work.

Finally, I would like to compliment everyone involved in the arrangements for this ceremony, particularly, the Army No. 1 Band under the baton of Lieutenant Carroll.

Thank you very much.

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