SPEECH BY WILLIE O’DEA, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
AT THE COMMISSIONING CEREMONY FOR THE 80th CADET CLASS MONDAY 4th JULY 2004
|Secretary General, Chief of Staff, Deputy Chiefs of Staff, GOC Defence Forces Training Centre, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentleman. I am proud, as Minister for Defence, to be here today at the historic Curragh Camp for this Commissioning Ceremony. |
No one here needs me to remind them that the job of a soldier is not without its dangers. We were all too tragically reminded of this on Thursday last, when news of the death of Trooper James Dillon and the injury of Sgt Tom Kennedy and Trooper Nicola Nolan reached us.
Young Trooper Dillon was laid to rest earlier today. He was a fine soldier with a great military pedigree. His passing has been deeply felt by everyone here at the Curragh. I want again to offer my sincere commiserations to his family, friends and colleagues on their huge loss.
I know that they, and Sgt Kennedy & Trooper Nolan will be in the thoughts and prayers of everyone here today.
Each annual Commissioning Ceremony marks the coming of age of a new generation of leaders. Having been selected to serve their country, the 49 young men and women of the 80th Cadet Class hey have risen to the challenge of a rigorous programme of preparation and training.
Over the last 21 months, their resolve, fortitude and stamina have been tested to the limit. The scrolls that I have just presented indicate that each of the members of the 80th Cadet Class is now a commissioned officer of the Permanent Defence Forces.
To reach this memorable day is a significant achievement by each officer and, I have no doubt, is also a matter of great and lasting pride to their families.
As newly commissioned officers, you have just taken an oath that pledges each one of you to be faithful to the Irish nation and the Constitution. This solemn undertaking marks you out from every other profession and I know that you have not taken on these responsibilities lightly.
Your training as military leaders of the future in the modern Irish Defence Forces will have equipped you with the skills necessary to face the many and varied challenges that will confront you.
As the Defence Forces continues to modernise across all areas, so too do the concepts of training undertaken by all of its personnel, not least the young officers of the future. Already these new officers have benefited from the constant development and updating of training in the Cadet School. Of course their training as officers does not end today but will continue for the duration of their military career.
These young officers will soon have the opportunity to undertake third level studies in keeping with best international practice for officer development. Then, at a later stage in their professional development, many of these officers will go on to study for the MA in Defence Studies at NUI Maynooth, which is an integral part of the Command and Staff Course.
This careful combination of military and academic disciplines is considered the best preparation for officers for the complex and varied tasks that they will be required to perform both at home and overseas.
These new officers take up duty at a time of exciting change for the Defence Forces. We are now half way through the implementation of the White Paper on Defence. This blueprint is transforming 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 have been extensive and far-reaching.
The investment programme in new equipment and infrastructure has had a positive impact on all areas of the Defence Forces. Earlier this year I signed contracts for new helicopters for the Air Corps, and which will greatly enhance the capacity of the Air Corps and the Defence Forces generally.
Since my appointment as Minister for Defence I have visited our peacekeeping troops in Liberia, Kosovo and Bosnia.
The Liberian mission is one of the most challenging ever undertaken by the Defence Forces. It was a matter of great satisfaction for me to see for myself how professionally they are performing their tasks. We are now in a position to send our personnel overseas as well, if not better equipped, than any of their peers. The ongoing modernisation programme has made this possible. Our Defence Forces deserve no less.
As well as the investment programme, I am determined to implement organisational changes as set out in the White Paper and reiterated in the Programme for Government.
Working in tandem with the military authorities, it is essential that commitments on a new Army organisation, an Integrated Personnel Management System and the Implementation Plan for the Reserve be fulfilled. The adoption of these internal reforms is as essential to the viability of the Defence Forces going forward, as is the investment programme.
Significant progress is being made across all these fronts and I am determined that we deliver on this in the shortest possible time.
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 over the last 21 months must be acknowledged and I would like in this regard, to thank the Commandant of the Military College, Colonel Dominic Timpson and the Officers and N.C.O.s of the Cadet School, for their fine work.
Before I conclude I would like to acknowledge the great work carried out by the Cadet School’s Sergeant Major Tony Scanlon over the past thirty years. During his time he has seen over a thousand of “his” cadets becoming Commissioned Officers. Today is the last commissioning ceremony before his well-earned retirement.
On behalf of his many former pupils, colleagues and friends I would like to thank Tony for his immense contribution to the Cadet School and wish him the best of luck on his final overseas mission which, I am informed, will be to a villa in Spain.
Finally I would like to compliment everyone involved here today in the arrangements for this impressive ceremony, with particular thanks to the Army Number 1 Band under the baton of Commandant Mark Armstrong for their superb musical accompaniment.
Thank you very much.
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