Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Major General Kieran Brennan, Deputy Chief of Staff Support, Major General Kevin Cotter, Director of the Department of Defence, Clare Tiernan, Assistant Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Peter O’Halloran, Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Commodore Mick Malone, (NAMES TBC)
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen; I am delighted to be here in Haulbowline for this afternoon’s Commissioning Ceremony.
First and foremost, I would like to welcome the families and friends of those who are being commissioned today. This is a proud day for you and your loved ones. I would also like to acknowledge the presence here today of some of my Oireachtas colleagues and local representatives.
It is a very special day for these 11 cadets. I offer my warmest congratulations to each and every one of you for the commitment you are making to the State. Each one of you, together with your families and friends, can be justifiably proud of your achievements.
The 56th Naval Cadet Class is made up of 10 men and one woman – Together they are 11 young people from different backgrounds and experiences, all of whom share the common focus of pursuing careers as officers in the Naval Service. As they now begin the first phase of their journey as Commissioned Officers I wish them well in their future careers with the Naval Service.
The training programme for the cadets consists of four distinct elements. On the 19th September 2016, the 56th Naval Cadet Class commenced their induction training at the Officer Training School here in Haulbowline. After their induction, the class moved to the Cadet School, Military College in the Defence Forces Training Centre in The Curragh, where they completed three months of rigorous military training, the main aim of which was to introduce them to their new life in the Defence Forces.
From January 2017, the class attended a course in Maritime Strategic Studies at NUI Maynooth. They also conducted an exercise with members of the Royal Navy, sailing from Kinsale to Dublin via Waterford on HMS Blazer and HMS Ranger. In addition, the cadets served aboard L.É. Eithne for a week where they gained valuable experience in search operations.
In June 2017, our cadets joined the L.É. Samuel Beckett and L.É. James Joyce to commence their first element of sea training. Our cadets gained a valuable insight into other navies by visiting Naval Colleges in the U.S and the U.K.
After a well-earned break, the class returned to the Naval Base where they continued their training, which incorporated their first year of academic study. The operations cadets began their study in Nautical Science at the National Maritime College of Ireland while the engineering cadets commenced the Mechanical Engineering course in the Cork Institute of Technology. During this time, the cadets also completed their Practical Leadership Exercise in Cork Harbour which pushed them to their physical and mental limits and forced them to draw upon all of the skills they had gained in their cadetship up to this point.
Along the way, the members of the 56th Cadet Class also helped raise money for their Cadet Class Charity, Pieta House, with individuals participating in marathons in Dublin, Clonakilty and Belfast.
In no small way, our cadets helped some of our most vulnerable people – values that epitomise the Irish Naval Service.
The final area of the cadetship is the pre-commissioning stage which ends today with this ceremony; no longer will you be cadets but commissioned officers in the Irish Naval Service.
From here, you will finish your college courses, enabling you to fill appointments on the ships of the Irish Naval Service.
The scrolls presented to you today indicate that each of you is now a commissioned officer of Óglaigh na hÉireann. You have taken a solemn Oath today, to be faithful to the Irish Nation and to be loyal to the Constitution and I know that none of you have taken on these responsibilities lightly.
It follows from the terms of the Oath that there can be no limitation in the matter of your loyalty to, and commitment to the service, of the State. It obliges you to provide supportive leadership in seeking a similar commitment from those under your command.
The Naval Service continues to make an important contribution across a wide variety of roles assigned by Government. In recent times, the Naval Service has distinguished itself internationally with the important work being carried out in the Mediterranean Sea as part of Operations Pontus and Sophia.
As part of Operation Sophia, the Naval Service is involved in surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, search and rescue operations, and Force Protection Operations. In the course of its deployments to Operation Sophia between October and December 2017, the crew of L.É. Niamh took part in search and rescue operations, rescuing 613 migrants and assisting with a further 107 migrant rescues. In February of this year, the Government approved a further Naval Service contribution to Operation Sophia. This will involve a total of 2 naval vessels deployed consecutively during the year for a period of up to 30 weeks in total. The L.É. Samuel Beckett left Ireland in mid-April to participate in the mission and will be replaced by the L.É. James Joyce. The people of Ireland can truly be proud of the marvellous work the Naval Service has done, and is continuing to do and I wish them every continued success with their endeavours.
The ongoing success of the Naval Service in the areas of fishery protection, search and rescue, and the provision of aid to the civil power is clear for all to see. These roles have the added benefit of conveying the importance of the Naval Service to the wider community. The ships of the Naval Service signal to everybody that we are committed to good governance throughout Ireland’s maritime jurisdiction. They also serve as a warning to those who think about flouting the norms and principles of the Irish State and the wider international community.
As Minister with responsibility for Defence, I am committed that this government continues to invest in our Naval Service.
Just this week, I visited the Babock Ship yard in Appledore, where our new vessel L.E George Bernard Shaw in her final stages of production.
I want to commend the team from Babock and the Irish Naval Service for their commitment to the project. We can look forward to the delivery of L.E Benard Shaw in the Autumn.
But today belongs to you new officers.
You are charged with providing leadership and guidance to others. A responsibility, I have no doubt you will all discharge with excellence. As officers of the Defence Forces, each of you has chosen a very challenging and demanding career. It is 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.
The training that these new officers have received has equipped them with the skills necessary to face the many and varied challenges that they will encounter in the course of their military careers. I would like to pay tribute to the Naval College staff involved in preparing and training these young officers. They deserve a special mention for the care and dedication, which they brought to the task of developing and nurturing these fine young people for their future careers. The fruits of their labour stand before us today and they can be proud of the good work they have done.
I would like thank everyone connected with the organisation of today’s event and to recognise the presence here today of the Band of the 1 Brigade. Thank you for your dedication.
Thank you all very much and I hope you enjoy the remainder of this very special day.