Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM; General Officer Commanding Defence Force Training College, Brigadier General, David Dignam; Principal Officer at the Department of Defence, Mr David Lawler; Cadet Master Lieutenant Colonel Gavin Young; Officers and NCOs of the Cadet School; New Cadets; Ladies & Gentlemen.
This is an immensely proud day for all of us gathered here in the Curragh this morning, but particularly for you, the new Cadets and your families.
As Minister with responsibility for Defence, it is a great privilege for me to welcome you into the wider Defence Force family and to celebrate your induction into the Permanent Defence Force as cadets.
As classmates and members of the 96th Cadet Class, you are embarking on an experience together that will see you one day become officers of Óglaigh na hÉireann.
The key word in that sentence, for me, is ‘together’.
The young men and women around you, your fellow Cadets, will today begin a journey that will test you both physically and mentally.
It’s a journey that won’t always be easy. But it is one I know you embark on with both energy and determination.
And so, as Minister, my overriding request to you all today is work together and look after one another in order to stay on the path to becoming officers and indeed leaders.
Your strength of character will be tested. But it will also be enhanced to prepare you for the demands that will be made of you over the coming months and years.
As Minister, it is particularly assuring for me to know that you will have access to the best possible supports here in the Cadet School.
Under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Gavin Young and his team, you will tested to your limits but also shown the necessary leadership, guidance and mentorship which is extremely important.
You are entering a Cadet School which has built, over generations, a proud tradition in the formation of military leaders.
Military leaders whose reputations have been respected among armed forces and whose talents have been trustingly deployed in missions of great international importance.
I know, as Minister, that you are in the most capable of hands.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my role as Minister affords me the privilege of witnessing first hand the women and men of Óglaigh na hÉireann delivering on their high standards of operation both at home and overseas.
They do so with pride, determination and courage while always displaying loyal service to the State.
Providing opportunities for members of the Defence Forces to travel overseas has been among my top priorities since my appointment in 2016.
Earlier this year, the Irish Defence Forces took over a full battalion in UNIFIL on a temporary basis.
And just last month, members of the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) deployed on their first operational role in almost a decade to the UN-mandated mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.
By deploying troops overseas, Ireland is demonstrating its commitment to securing international peace and security.
Thousands of women and men of the Defence Force have served under the UN blue helmets for over six decades.
It’s an unrivalled record for which we are rightly proud.
It’s a tradition which many of you will ensure continues.
It is now your responsibility to uphold the values of the Irish Defence Forces; values such as dedication to duty, passion and professionalism.
I know you will take this responsibility seriously.
You are all members of the 96th Army Cadet Class, a class of 75 cadets.
But 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.
And along the way, you will have many opportunities to develop your skill set and I urge you to seize as many of these opportunities as possible.
As Minister, I am approached time and time again by Defence Force members who remark on the excellent opportunities they avail of to develop their skillsets and their talents.
Many of you will also excel on the sporting field.
Just last week, I was delighted to address 50 personnel who are representing the Defence Forces and indeed their country at the Military World Games in China.
They will participate in clay pigeon shooting, boxing and soccer with the soccer team having recently competed in the European Games in Holland.
I as Minister, as well as the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Department of Defence Maurice Quinn, are hugely supportive of allowing personnel like you to develop your sporting and other talents.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the 96th Cadet Class includes 13 females, which is an increase from last year.
As Minister, I want to see more and more women enter the Defence Forces and I know there huge efforts going on to bring about this increase.
Among us today, we have 7 new Cadets from Malta and one instructor from the Armed Forces of Malta. I would like to take this opportunity to especially welcome each of you.
Our two nations have established a strong relationship in matters of security and defence and our ties continue to strengthen. The partnership is an example of the mutual benefits that like-minded countries receive when we cooperate and work together.
The Defence Forces is an extremely proud organisation and is an integral part of our State’s history. But sometimes, the positive narrative around our Defence Forces is twisted into the negative, often by people who don’t have your best interests at heart.
I know, as Minister, that there has been concern about pay in recent times. All public servants including members of the Defence Forces should be property remunerated. The concerns about pay are being addressed through increases in core pay and through the restoration of allowances – with further improvements to come.
But as you prepare for the next eighteen months of training – as future officers – I would urge you to stay focused on the real reasons you have joined the Defence Forces. Among which, is to serve your organisation and your country with pride.
This event today is about you and the commitment you are making today. I thank your families for the support in bringing you to this point in your careers.
They should be very proud of you. I hope that you will remember today fondly as you embark on this next phase in your life.
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.
Together with the newly inducted Air Corps and Naval Service cadets, we know you all will play your part in forging a bright future for the Defence Forces.