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Speech by Minister for Defence Mr. Tony Killeen, T.D., at the
Opening of new Irish Red Cross Centre in Ennis, Co. Clare
2 October 2010 at 14:00

Chairman, ladies and gentlemen; as a Clare man, it is a great pleasure for me to be with you all today for the opening of the new Irish Red Cross Centre here in Ennis. Before I go any further I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the new Chairman of the Irish Red Cross, Mr. David O’Callaghan, and wish him well in his new role.

The Irish Red Cross Society has a long history here in Co. Clare having opened its first branch in 1939. The branch here has had continuously strong membership ever since. There are over 300 members in the Clare branches based in Mountshannon, Lahinch, Kilrush, and here in Ennis. Many are involved in the Society’s Defibrillation Programme which aims to provide Community First Responder groups across the county. There are over 50 first aid unit personnel trained at various levels from Practical First Aid to Emergency Medical First Responder providing the Red Cross voluntary ambulance service in Clare.

Without wishing to single out particular members I might mention that Michael Conlon, the longest serving member in Ennis has 34 years’ service with the Society, having joined in 1976. That level of dedication is impressive in any organisation.

It gives me great pleasure to note that this new Irish Red Cross centre will help the organisation by performing a number of functions. It will be a location where people can come to join the Irish Red Cross access training, to get information, and to meet other people who volunteer their time to help others. The centre will be used for first aid training, providing ‘in house’ training to members of the branch, community courses for members of the public and providing corporate courses for companies to meet the legal requirement for first aid qualifications.

While the Irish Red Cross has a specific statutory role as an auxiliary to the Medical Corps of the Defence Forces in time of war or emergency, the vehicles and trained crews are also a useful auxiliary ambulance resource for the HSE Ambulance Service in the event of an emergency.

This usefulness of this resource was best illustrated very recently when major weather events hit the country. During these floods and freezing conditions in December 2009 to January 2010, we were reminded of the great service provided to the community by groups such as the Red Cross Society.

It is worth reminding ourselves of just how much the branch here in Co. Clare assisted the HSE with first aid and ambulance support. They provided assistance to numerous members of the public during the freezing conditions and transported people to hospital with various injuries.

The Society here provided Christmas presents to children in need in Clare Family Resource Centre Crèche in Cloughleigh. They also provided blankets, bedding and kitchen materials, in association with Fiachra Hensey and the team in Clare Care, to those who required them. Items were distributed to flood victims as needed. A mobile home was supplied for one individual whose home had been destroyed by the flood.

The Society worked alongside local groups such as Lyons Club, St Vincent de Paul, Ennis Town Council, Clare Care, Clare FM, and Civil Defence to provide the full assistance that was needed by victims of the flood disaster.

Without this level of assistance, it is safe to say that many more people would have suffered greater hardship during the severe weather. For this we must register our gratitude to the Society.

In Ireland, the Red Cross provides both emergency services through its Mountain Rescue Team as well as a variety of broadly-based community services including youth work and care for the sick and elderly. Moreover, the Red Cross has secured both national and European recognition for its high-quality courses in First-Aid for individuals, groups and employers, which are based on its own extensive experience in the provision of First-Aid at both local and national events. The Irish Red Cross nationally have trained over 100 Emergency Medical Technicians in line with the State recognised Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council. There are 3 candidates from Clare starting training as Emergency Medical Technicians this month. This will greatly improve the standard of care and level of service that the Irish Red Cross can provide in Clare.

Currently there are over 100 road and off-road ambulances nationwide. These vehicles are used at hundreds of events nationally, and much community, voluntary and sporting events could not go ahead without the support of the Irish Red Cross and its fleet.

The work of the Irish Red Cross is only possible because of the extensive and very committed network of volunteers. With approximately 5,000 volunteer members in Ireland, spread across 120 branches, the Red Cross is deeply rooted in local communities nationwide and draws its members from all walks of life. The dedication and commitment given by volunteers to charitable organisations can never be truly valued. I have the utmost admiration and respect for people who devote some of their spare time to their local communities.

The Society is also honoured to continue to have the support of many Irish citizens and companies who regularly support appeals for donations. Their continued support is essential.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those involved in the Society here in Ennis and I wish you the best of luck with everything for the future.

In conclusion, I would like to pay special thanks to Shirley Benson, Area Director of Units who was directly responsible for the sourcing and acquisition of the property and to Bernadette Dillon, PRO Clare Area who assisted with the refurbishment.

I would like now to proceed to officially open this building.

Thank you very much.

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