Secretary General at the Department of Defence, Maurice Quinn; Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett; Assistant Secretaries Des Dowling and Robert Mooney; Deputy Chiefs of Staff, Major Generals Kieran Brennan and Sean Clancy; Director Clare Tiernan; Assistant Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Peter O’Halloran; General Officer Commanding 2 Brigade, Brigadier General Howard Berney; GOC Air Corps Brigadier General Rory O’Connor; RDF Director, Colonel Ger Buckley; Assistant Secretary Department of the Taoiseach Andrew Munroe who is a former member of the Reserve Defence Forces, Representatives from the Reserve Defence Forces Representative Association (RDFRA); Local Representatives; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Reserve Defence Force.
As part of this special occasion, I am delighted also to formally launch a new Employer Engagement Handbook, which I will touch on later.
The Reserve Defence Force has a long and proud history and a special place in the hearts of people right across the country.
Through its various forms since its formation as a Volunteer Reserve in 1929, the State has always reaped the benefits from the contributions of Reserve members.
We have already heard the comprehensive and important history of the RDF presented very ably to us by Commandant Lar Joy.
In celebrating this anniversary, both the Government and I as Minister, wish to acknowledge the service of each and every member of the Reserve Defence Force, including those no longer with us.
These men and women selflessly give their spare time in order to serve their State, their constitution and their communities.
By joining the RDF and serving their country, they have sacrificed time that could have been spent with family and friends.
Through dedication and service, RDF members are an integral part of Ireland’s defence capability.
Since my appointment to my current role as Minister in 2016, I have witnessed first-hand the dedication of RDF members the length and breadth of the country.
As members, you come from all walks of life to take part in a vital public service.
Over the years, it’s been clear to me that the RDF is an organisation that attracts people who feel they have something to offer.
At regular junctures, I meet people who, through a sense of real pride, share stories and memories of their time as Reservists.
Such memories are recounted fondly and it is clear that a period of service in the Reserve leaves a lasting impression on those who serve.
It should be noted, too, that many of the very senior leaders in the Defence Forces began their careers with a stint in the Reserve.
These include our own Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mellett, as well as a number of his predecessors.
Many members of the Permanent Defence Force also finish their careers with service in the First Line Reserve.
I would like to take this opportunity to urge anyone who leaves the Defence Forces, for whatever reason, to consider embarking on this path into the First Line Reserve.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Reserve Defence Force continues to evolve and is currently on the development path as set out in the White Paper on Defence.
In recognising that the Defence and Security environment is dynamic and constantly changing, there is a real need to ensure that Ireland's defence capabilities are both flexible and adaptable.
There are new and emerging threats that require specialist capabilities.
There are a number of White Paper projects which aim to identify skill gaps in the Defence Forces and the best approach to bridge those gaps.
In this context, the White Paper recognises that there is potential to harness specialist skills that rest within the Reserve and use these skills to better effect to deliver Ireland's Defence capability requirements.
This includes the Army Reserve, Naval Service Reserve and the First Line Reserve.
These projects are being undertaken in a phased manner and ultimately any changes to the usage of the Reserve will need to be underpinned by legislation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, military training for members of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve equips them to undertake the roles assigned to the Reserve Defence Force.
During their period of training, each member gains skills and experiences that are unique to military life, but which also build an adaptable and transferable skill set.
Just as members of the Permanent Defence Force are valued for their skills and experience, members of the Reserve also provide added value to their employers.
Throughout their careers in the Defence Forces, each member of the Reserve will at some point exercise leadership, management, task orientated focus, working under pressure, teamwork, physical endurance and mental agility.
There are multiple benefits that accrue from these skills - both professionally, personally and even on a societal level.
Indeed, there are multiple benefits that Reservists bring to their military roles from their civilian employments.
The State, its citizens and employers benefit from Reserve membership.
It is a true win-win.
This brings me to the second reason why we are here today: the launch of the Employer’s Information Booklet.
This booklet seeks to build on the relationship with the State’s employers who have helped facilitate employees who are members of the Reserve to train to a high standard.
This document is a unique opportunity to show the benefits that an employer can gain from having a member of the RDF as part of their organisations.
I would encourage all employers of Reservists to support their employees by facilitating them where possible in terms of training obligations.
I would also like to thank those employers who already facilitate their employees by granting them leave of absence in order for them to meet their Reserve training requirements.
Your support and foresight is appreciated in assisting RDF members to train to the highest of standards.
But I want to take this opportunity, too, to urge other employers out there to consider the benefits of having a reservist working in their organisations.
The Defence Forces is actively seeking to develop a partnership with as many companies and institutions as possible.
By doing so, all stakeholders will benefit.
The Government remains committed on this 90th anniversary to strengthening the RDF.
Recruitment is currently underway, providing opportunities for young men and women to expand their potential.
And I am asking everyone here today to assist in these efforts.
By working together to boost the numbers in the RDF, we will ensure that we have a stronger force.
New recruits can expect to start with basic military skills encompassing marching, weapons use and tactics.
They can then progress to mission planning and tactical command; experiencing the many benefits provided by the Defence Forces.
Membership of the Reserve could also be used as a means of sampling military life as a full-time career.
Ladies and Gentlemen, on this significant anniversary, the Government encourages Ireland’s employers to support those who serve in the Reserve Defence Force, to see it for the mutually beneficial professional development platform that it is and to encourage and enable people to serve.
Before I conclude, I have a message for the serving and former members of the Reserve.
I know that your training was difficult and that there may have been many other calls on your time such as family commitments. By continuing to serve with the RDF, you are also serving your country and doing yourselves and your families extremely proud.
Thank you for your service, which is deeply appreciated not just by me, but by the entire Defence Organisation and indeed the wider public.
May I thank the Army Number One Band, under the baton of Captain John Carpenter, for the music provided today.
I hope you enjoy the rest of the day and I look forward to meeting many of you to discuss your experience as members of the Reserve Defence Force.