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Chief of Staff Address - RDFRA Conference 2012

08 September 2012

A Chathaoirlach, a Aire Stáit don Roinn Cosanta, A Rúnaí­ Gineralta do RDFRA, baill den Choiste Feidhmiúcháin Naisiúnta, toscairí­ agus a chomh-aí­oanna go léir. Tugann sé mór áthais dom bheith anseo inniu le haghaidh an Comhdháil Bhliantúil Toscairí­. Is mór liom arí­s, an deis seo a fháil chun labhairt leis na h-ionadaithe tofa agus na toscairí­ de chuid RDFRA.

Chairperson, Minister for State at the Department of Defence, General Secretary RDFRA, members of the National Executive, Delegates and fellow guests, I am delighted to have this opportunity to be here with you today on the occasion of your Annual Delegate Conference and I welcome the opportunity to address the elected representatives and delegates of RDFRA.
I fully appreciate that uncertainties affect all our personnel and the challenge for leadership is to offset the ambiguity through accurate and prompt passage of information; that is my aim here today. Candidly explaining events and decisions reduces tensions and is critical to maintaining the trust between the leaders and the led.

Ethos of the RDF

The RDF contributes to Ireland’s defence capability by providing a capacity to augment the PDF, in the event of a major crisis. It also serves as a source of recruitment for the PDF and provides a character forming opportunity for young Irish men and women to serve the State. The RDF has played a significant and appreciated role for Ireland and the Defence Forces in the past and will continue to play an important role in the future. This could not take place without the dedication and loyalty of the Officers, NCOs, men and women of the RDF. I am conscious of the pressures of work and family on members of the reserve and the sacrifices individuals have to make in order to train for and participate in the various events throughout the year.
Next year the nation will celebrate the centenary of the founding of the Defence Forces as the Irish Volunteers, Óglaigh na h-Éireann. The same principles of loyalty, dedication and self sacrifice underline the volunteer ethos of the current Defence Forces including the RDF.

Members of the Reserve, like their PDF colleagues, are now faced with the necessity to again transform the Defence Forces arising out of the economic difficulties that our country is currently facing. I will return to the theme of transformation later in my address but the dedication and effort demonstrated to date by members of the RDF gives me great confidence that these challenges will be met as successfully in the future as they have in the past. It must always be remembered that transformation in the Defence Forces will not be achieved by strategy alone; rather it will be brought about by the combined actions of all of our personnel, including you the members of RDFRA.

Value for Money and Policy Review

The current economic climate and the necessary cuts to public expenditure present us with enormous challenges as to how best to lead the organisation in order to serve Ireland, its Government and her people.  The organisation is now competing with all other Government sectors for limited resources and an unforgiving public eye is examining exactly where these resources go. The Defence vote reduced from €877m in 2008 to approximately €688m in 2012. This has required us to forensically examine every aspect of how we do our business, to prioritise where we spend our money and to make critical decisions in relation to maintaining and, where possible, developing current and future capabilities.

The review of the PDF has been completed. The RDF as you are aware is currently undergoing a value for money and policy review. This review is due to be finalised later this month and will play a major part in shaping the future of the organisation in the years to come. The timing of the review enables us to design an organisation that will complement the PDF and an RDF that we can sustain into the future.

While I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of the value for money and policy review process, and while, like Minister Keogh, I am unable to allay all of your concerns, I can assure you that following the consideration of the report by the Minister, RDFRA will be consulted, as is appropriate. In addition there will be a comprehensive process of consultation with members of the RDF and stakeholders. The review may pose certain challenges for the Personnel of the RDF, and while I am confident that you are equal to these challenges, I would like to further reassure you that from a military perspective the implementation of the approved recommendations will be conducted with you in an open, transparent and pragmatic manner.


As an essential and integral part of the Defence Forces, training will continue to be the number one priority for the RDF. The level of paid training is determined by the budget allocation. Significantly there was no reduction in man days for full time training in 2012, again over 3,000 reservists will have availed of the opportunity to undergo seven days full time training while recruit training has been afforded fourteen days (full time training). Allied to this, the RDFTA have conducted the Potential Officers Course and the Standard NCOs course.

Again this year, the Annual Tactical Training Assessments were conducted in the Glen of Imaal where units from 1 S Bde RDF and 4 W Bde RDF were exercised and assessed while being supported by 2 E Bde RDF in Logistics and Administration. Over 400 reservists participated in this assessment programme.

Training will always be central to ensuring the effectiveness of any military organisation, it is my responsibility to ensure that the RDF receives the maximum support possible within the resources available to maintain the high standards which the efforts of its members have helped it achieve.


Recruiting is the life blood of any organisation and the RDF is no different in this important Human Resource area. The training of 322 recruits was sanctioned in 2012. Given the current financial constraints this has required a fine balancing act to ensure, on the one hand, that recruit training continues while, on the other hand, the maximum numbers are given the opportunity to avail of annual full time training within the current financial envelope.


Since your last conference 258 promotions were sanctioned by the Minister. Some personnel have already been promoted, and other promotions are currently being processed. The Minister indicated that promotions would be allowed into ranks where the current strength is less than 70% of that allowed for in the Establishment. The sanctioned promotions will bring the strength of Cpls to 60% of that allowed for in the Establishment.


The Defence Forces is experiencing a period of dramatic change. While the economic state of the country has necessitated many difficult decisions to be made, change in its own right is always necessary for an organisation to develop. 

The challenge presented by the current reorganisation of the Defence Forces requires transformation and the key to this transformation is leadership. Management is the control process aimed at bringing coordination and efficiency to organisations, but leadership inspires and energises people to commitment. Leadership is an enduring requirement in the Defence Forces but is especially critical in this reorganisation and implementation process. In Defence Forces’ doctrine, leadership is defined as

Influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organisation

In other words, leadership requires more than simply getting the job done - it requires leaders to "influence people" to "improve the organisation" and ensure the organisation is ready for current and future tasks. This is now what is required of us all. Effective leadership requires us to not only sustain the organisation but to propel it forward in these demanding times. In looking to secure our future and that of our country, transformation is key. This transformation requires commitment from us all, to ensure that we achieve the best possible outcome, for our colleagues, for the organisation and for our country.

Mar fhocal scoir, ba mhaith liom mo bhuí­ochas pearsanta a ghlacadh libhse, comhaltaí­ an Chúltaca, as an méid oibre atá déanta agaibh don Stát. Glacaim buí­ochas fresin le blur gcéilí­ agus blur dteaghlaigh, ó tharla nach mbeadh sibh in ann an méid sin ama a chaitheamh sna Fórsaí­ Cosanta gan a gcuid tacaí­ochta. Ba mhaith liom an deis seo a ghlacadh freisin chun gach rath a ghuí­ oraibh in bhur n-iarrachtaí­ amach anseo.

To conclude, I wish to extend my personal thanks to you the members of the Reserve for your contribution to the State and to the spouses, partners and families without whose support; the time and commitment given by you to Ireland and the Defence Forces would not be possible. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you all well in your future endeavours.