Commissioning Ceremony of the 94th Cadet Class, Dublin Castle, 4 February 2019

Speech by Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D.
Minister with responsibility for Defence

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar;

Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett; Secretary General at the Department of Defence, Mr Maurice Quinn; His Excellency Mr. Leonard Sacco, Ambassador of Malta to Ireland

Members of the General Staff;

Chief of Defence of the Armed Forces of Malta, Brigadier General Jeffrey Curmi;

Members of An Garda Síochána; Oireachtas members, councillors; Ladies and Gentlemen.

We are gathered here in Dublin Castle today to mark what is a piece of history for Óglaigh na hÉireann.

The commissioning of 77 members of the 94th Cadet Class represents the single biggest intake of Cadets since the foundation of the State.

It is fitting therefore that it is also the first commissioning to be held in Dublin Castle.

Your commissioning here today is a significant next step in your journey within the great traditions of the Defence Forces.

This afternoon’s ceremony is as much a family occasion as it is an important military event.

Your family and friends accompanying you today deserve special recognition. They have shown you tremendous support as you embark on a career in the Defence Forces.

I want to acknowledge the presence of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who today attends his first Commissioning Ceremony since taking office.

Taoiseach, it should be recognised that your presence here follows your attendance at the passing out parade of 200 young Gardaí at Templemore in November.

In June of last year, An Taoiseach and I – along with President Michael D Higgins – attended a State ceremony here at Dublin Castle to mark the 6oth anniversary of Ireland’s involvement in UN Peacekeeping.

And just last month, we travelled to Mali to see first-hand the positive contribution of our troops to the EU Training Mission.

The 94th Cadet Class before us today are part of the new generation of military leaders, who will play a central role in the next chapter of Ireland’s peacekeeping tradition.

Nine of the 77 Cadets here today are from the Armed Forces of Malta.

I want to extend a special welcome to them and their families.

Last week, I met my Maltese counterpart at a European Defence Ministers meeting in Bucharest and he sent his best wishes ahead of today’s occasion.

The partnership between Ireland and Malta is an example of the mutual benefits that like-minded countries receive when we cooperate and work together.

It should be noted that in 2018, for the first time, two personnel from the Armed Forces Malta deployed as part of the Irish Battalion serving with the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon. 

In yet another piece of history, there are also 17 women in this Class, the largest cohort of females ever to be commissioned from one class.

Increasing female participation in the Defence Forces is a key priority of Government and I hope your experiences and your careers will be examples that entice more women to follow in your footsteps.

You, the members of the 94th Cadet Class, are now graduates of the Cadet School at the Military College.

The scrolls that have just been presented on behalf of the President and the Government of Ireland sets your duties and responsibilities as a commissioned officer of Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are living in a changing society and face different threats compared to those of the past; including terrorism, cyber-attacks and hybrid threats.

These complex threats are increasingly present in the areas to which the Defence Forces deploy on Peacekeeping missions, which can be robust operations in order to ensure the safety of the communities we seek to protect.

In this complex environment, the Defence Forces never operate in isolation.

For this reason, working with like-minded states to ensure interoperability is a way of increasing the effectiveness of our operations and the safety of our personnel.

At a policy level, this is the reason for the Government’s continued engagement with international organisations and it is why we are committed to continuing to invest in you, the future of the organisation, and the equipment and platforms we provide you.

The Government’s commitment to the Defence Forces was demonstrated in the recent Budget, which included a  six per cent increase across the Defence Votes group.

As Minister, I am acutely aware of the challenges that affect the Defence Forces, such as recruitment, retention, pay and conditions.

Pay is continuing to increase in accordance with public sector pay agreements with  further increases due in 2019 and 2020.

And as a Government, we have tasked the independent Public Service Pay Commission to look at issues such as recruitment and retention.

I look forward to the conclusion of the Commission’s work, which will guide our next steps forward.

But today is a celebration of real achievement for the 94th Cadet Class.

It marks a great milestone in the lives of these young officers.

I would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of all those who have moulded these young men and women into fine young officers over some fifteen months of training. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the Commandant of the Cadet School Colonel Brendan McGuinness; the Class Officer Commandant Stephen MacEoin; Regimental Sergeant Major Mark Fitzsimons, and all of their colleagues in the Cadet School, for their excellent work.

I would like to acknowledge General Officer Commanding Defence Force Training College, Brigadier General David Dignam. David, to you and your staff, thank you for your dedicated work.

The commitment of the cadets and the skill of the instructors in the Cadet School are vitally important.

I would like to compliment everyone connected with the organisation of this afternoon’s ceremony and to thank the Army Number 1 Band under the baton of both Captain Fergal Carroll and Captain Thomas Kelly for their superb musical accompaniment.

Thank you all very much and I hope you enjoy the remainder of this very special day.

I would now like to introduce An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to the stage.