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Speech by Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, T.D.
Visit to McKee Barracks Dublin

23rd February 2005

Secretary-General, Chief of Staff, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here today in McKee Barracks as part of my nationwide tour of army barracks and military installations.

As the Chief of Staff and Commandant Donnelly will be aware I asked that these visits be as informal as possible so I can have the opportunity to meet and talk with as many members of the Defence Forces as possible.

You may be relieved to hear that I intend to play my part in that by delivering a brief speech.

At each and everyone one of the locations I have visited so far I have been deeply impressed by the commitment and professionalism of our military personnel across all ranks. My visit with you here in McKee barracks is no exception.

This year it is anticipated that some 279 personnel from McKee barracks will see duty overseas in Liberia, Kosovo and other places.

I know that everyone going on service overseas in the coming months will continue the great tradition of Irish peacekeepers. Our people have won a deserved reputation for professional excellence and unselfish humanity.

This was publicly acknowledged at the highest level only a few months ago when the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, came here to McKee barracks to offer a sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Irish Defence Forces. I want to echo his remarks again here today.

The past seven years have seen an unprecedented level of investment in Defence Forces. Continuing this investment in Defence Forces equipment, infrastructure and training is vitally important to me.

Over the past couple of years, in addition to our ongoing purchase of defensive equipment, we have completed the purchase of:
8 Pilatus aircraft - €60million
65 Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers - €84m
Javelin anti-armour missile system - €13m

This programme of investment is continuing. I was pleased to be able to secure over €33.5 million in this year’s Defence Estimates for building and maintenance work.

Last January, I signed contracts for the purchase of six new helicopters: valued at €60 million. Later this year my officials will be inviting tenders for the supply of light tactical vehicles which the Military Authorities have identified as a key priority.

In conclusion, may I thank Commandant Dorothy Donnelly, her staff and everyone at McKee Barracks for making my visit here today so pleasant and enjoyable.

I want to wish you all well in the year ahead and look forward to being back in McKee barracks again very soon.

ENDS


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