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Speech by Minister for Defence Mr Willie O’Dea, TD, at the Commissioning Ceremony for the 85th Cadet Class

Military School, Curragh 21 January 2010

Secretary General, Acting Chief of Staff, ladies and gentlemen; I am most delighted to be in the Curragh Camp for this afternoon’s Commissioning Ceremony.

Each annual Commissioning Ceremony marks the coming of age of a new generation of leaders. You, the 85th Cadet Class, are that new generation. You comprise a mixture of school leavers, third level graduates and many who have previously served in the Reserve Defence Force.

I offer my warmest congratulations to all of you for the commitment you are making to your country. You are, together with your families and friends, entitled to feel enormously proud of what you have achieved.

The scrolls I have just presented indicate that each of you is now a commissioned officer of Óglaigh na hÉireann. The solemn oath each of 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. The training you have received has equipped you with the skills necessary to face the many and varied challenges you will encounter in the course of your military careers. I know that none of you have undertaken these responsibilities lightly.

The skills and talents you bring to the Officer Corps of the Defence Forces will be essential to its ongoing modernisation and its effectiveness, both at home and overseas.

The difficult economic environment demands that we achieve efficiencies in all parts of the public sector in order to deliver high quality public services. We can be proud of the fact that the considerable modernisation and efficiency we have achieved together in the Defence Forces in recent years provides a model for public sector reform.

I am, as Minister for Defence, pleased that these efficiencies have been converted into significant investment in new equipment. It leaves the Defence Forces well placed to meet the challenges it faces.

It remains my intention to ensure continued investment so we can protect the capacity of the Defence organisation to operate effectively across all roles and to protect and consolidate the important capability gains which have been delivered through the defence investment and modernisation programme of the past 10 years.

As regards participation by the Defence Forces in overseas peace support operations, the key reductions in the Defence budget for 2010 will include the drawdown of the Defence Forces contingents serving in Kosovo and Bosnia.

This measure is temporary. Once the current economic crisis is past, the Government will look again at potential overseas missions so we can maintain Ireland’s proud record of peacekeeping. The Government is committed to continue Ireland’s participation in the mission in Chad, subject to the renewal by the UN Security Council of the mission’s mandate.

As I have already said, this is an important day for the 35 young people here before us today. As officers of the Defence Forces each of you has chosen a very challenging and demanding career – but one that is also very fulfilling and rewarding. I earnestly hope that you all will enjoy the many positive and enjoyable aspects of military life. Foremost amongst these are the comradeship, the challenges and the very high level of job satisfaction that comes from leading and serving others.

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 Tommy Doyle, the Class Officer: Commandant Ray Murphy, Company Sergeant John Keenan 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 Captain Fergal Carroll.

Thank you very much.

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