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Secretary General, Chief of Staff, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman: I am delighted to be here today at the inaugural swearing-in ceremony for the military judge - Col Tony Mc Court. Today marks another important step on the road to implementing a thoroughly modern military justice system.

The Defence (Amendment) Act 2007, which I introduced, implemented a new system of military justice that is proactive on human rights and draws on the most recent developments in common law jurisdictions. It provides for new structures, procedures, punishments and appeal processes governing both summary investigations and courts-martial. I believe it will serve us well in the years ahead.

The appointment, for the first time, of an independent military judge is one of a number of key provisions included in the Act. The Military Judge will be a central figure in the new system with a judicial role similar to that of a civilian judge. I am pleased to announce that Colonel Tony McCourt has been selected to serve in the historic position as the first Military Judge.

In addition to the key appointment of a military judge, other measures in the Act include the establishment of an independent military prosecuting authority, the appointment of a Court-Martial Administrator and the establishment of a new Summary Court-Martial.

Colonel Paul Pakenham was appointed as the Court-Martial Administrator in May 2007 and Colonel Bill Nott was appointed as Director of Military Prosecutions on 12th September 2007. Drafting of revised court-martial rules of procedure and new regulations governing summary investigations is underway.

Much work has gone into getting to where we are now. I want to thank Col. McCourt, who was involved from the start, for his most valuable input at all stages. Indeed back in 2001 he presided over the Military Law Review Board who identified the need for major amendments to the Defence Act.

Col. McCourt was central to the drafting process both in advance and during the Bill’s progress through the Houses of the Oireachtas. I have no doubt his knowledge of this legislation together with his experience of the disciplinary needs of our modern Defence Force will see him serve with distinction in his new role as Military Judge.

The Defence Forces are moving ahead on all fronts. This morning I discussed our overseas deployments with my Cabinet colleagues. I can announce that our contingent with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) will be withdrawn when the current deployment expires at the end of October.

Along with my colleagues, I have been giving consideration to possible Defence Forces participation in UN mandated military operations that may arise in Africa, particularly in the context of the continuing crisis and human suffering in Darfur.

Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1778 authorising the proposed EU military operation in the Republic of Chad and the Central African Republic. The purpose of this ESDP mission, which will be a Chapter VII operation, is to support the authorities in both Chad and the Central African Republic in protecting refugees from Darfur, assisting in the delivery of humanitarian aid and ensuring the free movement of humanitarian personnel.

I informed the Cabinet this morning that I have authorized the Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Dermot Earley to undertake a reconnaissance mission to the region. Subject to this assessment I would anticipate that the Defence Forces contribution to Chad and the Central African Republic mission would be substantial, probably in the region of 300 – 350. This mission will compliment the work of the UN/AU hybrid mission being launched in Sudan Darfur.

Before I finish, I would also like to use this opportunity to thank the staff of the AG’s office who worked tirelessly on both drafting the Bill and providing helpful and sound legal advices as required. The 2007 Act was the first of a two-stage process and I look forward to again working closely with the AG’s office on Phase two.

In conclusion, I would like to wish Col. McCourt every success in his new appointment as military judge and I would now like to present him with his warrant of appointment.

Thank you.

ENDS


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