CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett; GOC Defence Force Training College, Brigadier General, Joe Mulligan; Lieutenant Colonel Gavin Young, Principal Officer at the Department of Defence, David Lawler; Officers and NCOs of the Cadet School; New Cadets; Ladies & Gentlemen.
This is an immensely proud and memorable day for all of us gathered here, and in particular for you, the new Cadets and your attending families.
It is my privilege, as Minister with responsibility for Defence, to welcome you all into the wider Defence Forces family and celebrate your induction into the Permanent Defence Force as cadets.
My role affords me the privilege of witnessing at first-hand the Defence Forces delivering on their high standards of operations both at home and overseas, in loyal service to the State.
A dedication to duty, passion and professionalism are the key traits of the Irish Defence Forces. Beginning today, you now also have a responsibility to uphold these values.
It’s a responsibility which I know you will all take seriously.
Today’s gathering is the 95th successive Army Cadet Class since the very first intake over 90 years ago.
You have already achieved success in reaching this point, by attaining Leaving Certificates, College Qualifications and, for 12 of you, previous service to the state within the Defence Forces.
Today, you embark on the next phase on the path to becoming a commissioned officer. This will include a mix of extensive training and military education. Your successful completion shall prove that each of you individually have what is required to fulfil such a varied, worthwhile career, as a military leader.
The work and training environment that you will shortly embark on is a dynamic, operational one. Yet you can be assured that your rights as an individual will be upheld and protected, irrespective of your gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. For your part, as leaders of people, you must respect and defend the rights and dignity of all personnel serving in the Defence Forces and indeed all of the people with whom you serve, whether at home or overseas.
The 95th Cadet Class in its entirety includes 12 females (9 for the Army, 1 for the Naval Service and 2 Maltese Cadets). Ireland places no restrictions on its Defence Forces’ assignment of women and men to the full range of operational and administrative duties.
This Government policy ensures that everyone can play a full and meaningful role in all aspects of Defence Forces operations both at home and overseas.
The Defence Forces carry out a wide variety of roles on behalf of Government ranging from the provision of ceremonial services, to participating in multi-national peace support and humanitarian relief operations.
Your challenge, when you become commissioned officers, will be to lead the women and men tasked in carrying out these objectives.
The Government is keenly aware that the domestic and international security landscape continues to change.
Therefore, our planning and resources, in the Defence Organisation, must also continue to meet the increasingly diverse range of challenges presenting as security threats in the 21st century.
The current White paper on Defence plans for growth, expansion and increased investment in our Defence Forces.
I can inform you that, in the Army, as with the Naval Service and Air Corps, there is ongoing investment. Significantly for the army, an upgrade of their fleet of MOWAG Armoured Personnel Carriers is underway at a cost in excess of €55m. This, along with the acquisition of twenty four (24) 4 x 4 Armoured Utility Vehicles will enhance force protection.
We have, and will continue, to invest in our accommodation – with €9.4m worth of investment projects and upgrades already underway at Cathal Brugha, Casement Aerodrome and here at the Curragh.
You are entering a Cadet School which has built, over generations, a proud tradition in the formation of military leaders whose reputations have been respected among armed forces worldwide and whose talents have been trustingly deployed in missions of great international importance.
I recently presented the Distinguished Service Medal to Major General Michael Beary, who had served with distinction as head of the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon.
During your time here, I urge you to work with one another and stay the path as it will not always be an easy one. Your strength of character will be tested or, more accurately, will be enhanced to prepare you for the demands that will be made of you.
Among us today, we have 7 new Cadets from Malta and I’d like to take this moment to especially welcome each of you. Since 2009, a total of 29 Officer Cadets of the Armed Forces of Malta have received training here at the Curragh and have since been commissioned. The 94th Cadet Class, present here, includes 10 Maltese Officer Cadets.
Our two nations have established a strong relationship in matters of security and defence and our ties continue to strengthen. For example, two personnel from the Armed Forces of Malta will join the Cadet School this month as Instructors to assist the Defence Forces in the training of Cadets.
Your participation creates an international dimension to the training environment, and in a number of ways this positively contributes to preparing all cadet inductees here for the increasingly international collaboration that is a feature of 21st century soldiering.
As a fully committed member of the EU, Ireland has and continues to establish new relationships, collectively and bilaterally, with partner States.
It would be remiss of me, as Minister with responsibility for Defence, not to acknowledge the concerns raised about pay and conditions within the Defence Forces.
We are in a process of restoring pay and reversing the cuts that were introduced across the public service during the economic downturn.
I have secured the agreement of Government to prioritise consideration of issues such as recruitment and retention by the Public Service Pay Commission. I look forward to the outcome of the Commission's work, which will provide the basis for addressing the issues within the Defence Forces.
I hope that this is a day that you will remember forever, and I thank your families for the support in bringing you to this point in your careers. They should be very proud of you.
Like your predecessors, I am heartened that you will be trained to the highest possible standard.
I hope to see each of you successfully pass out on Commissioning Day in 15 months’ time.
Vice Admiral Mark Mellett and I wish you well with your endeavours.
We see a bright path for the Defence Forces and we know you will play your part in forging that new future.