Defence Forces History

This section of the Website traces the history of the Defence Forces from its foundation in 1913 to the present day. We hope that you find the information presented both interesting and helpful. The section does not attempt to answer all of your questions but it should provide you with a better understanding of the organisation that is the Irish Defence Forces. In particular it should encourage you to read further on the subject so that you can develop an informed insight into the origins of both the Defence Forces and of the country it serves so proudly and selflessly.

Foundation of the Volunteers

The Irish Volunteers, Óglaigh na hÉireann, were founded on 25 November 1913 at a public meeting held in the Rotunda Rink in Dublin.

Read More about the Foundation of The Volunteers

The 1916 Rising

The Irish Volunteers had a membership of 180,000 by mid 1914 but split over whether its members should enlist in the British Forces and fight in the European war.

Read More about The Easter Rising - 1916

The War of Independence 1919 - 1921

The War of Independence was initiated in January 1919 by a number of young, determined Volunteer leaders.

Read more about The War of Independance 1919 - 1921

The Civil War 1922 - 1923

The Anglo-Irish Treaty, negotiated during the truce and signed on 6 December 1921, caused deep divisions within nationalist Ireland.

Read more about The Civil War 1922 - 1923

Between the Wars 1923 - 1939

In the autumn of 1923 it was decided to reduce the strength of the army and to reorganise it for peacetime. This entailed a reduction of 30,000 personnel.

Read more about Between the Wars 1923 - 1939

The Emergency 1939 - 1946

On the outbreak of World War II, in September 1939, the Defence Forces mobilised at a strength of less than 20,000.

Read more about The Emergency 1939 - 1946

Post Emergency Years 1946 - 1960

At the end of the Emergency the strength of the Defence Forces was reduced to an establishment of 12,500. The Regular Army was now composed of three Brigades.

Read more about Post Emergency Years 1946 - 1960

The Sixties 1960 - 1969

The United Nations mission in the Congo, which lasted from July 1960 to May 1964, opened up new horizons for the Defence Forces. Overseas service highlighted many shortcomings.

Read more about The Sixties 1960 - 1969

Into The Modern Era

In 1969 the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland marked the start of an intense period of Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) by all elements of the Defence Forces. 

Read more about into The Modern Era 1969 - Present Day

The Modern Era

The late 1990's heralded a new phase in the evolution of the Defence Forces with a major restructuring involving the removal of Command Headquarters.

Read more about The Modern Era

Peace Support Operations

The involvement by the Defence Forces in Peace Support Operations has been continuous since June 1958 when the first group of Officers went to Lebanon

Read More about Peace Support Operations

The Badge Design

The Badge design (common to all Corps and Services and all orders of dress) is derived from the badge of the Irish Volunteers and was designed by Professor Eoin MacNeill, Chairman of the National Executive of the Irish Volunteers. This badge was originally adopted by the Irish Volunteers in October 1914. [Read more]