1916 centenary is a bridge between public and Defence Forces
The Chief of Staff of Óglaigh na hÉireann is proud of the links with the Volunteers who were key to the 1916 Rising, writes Tom Brady
The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces believes the 1916 commemorations offer the military an opportunity to increase public understanding of their role in the defence and security of the State, while also reinforcing their identity and heritage.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett said Óglaigh na hÉireann were a key component of the State's security architecture and were part of the bedrock which underpinned our sovereignty and sovereign rights, while contributing to the framework which facilitates a civil society.
"Security is the foundation on which a society's cultural, social and economic achievements stand," he said.
"The norms and principles of a civilised society, including security, are vital towards creating the conditions in which both society and economy can flourish."
The peacekeeping efforts of the Defence Forces around the globe were part of the enabling conditions for a safe and secure environment, which, he said, were essential to facilitating a level of security among peoples less fortunate than ourselves.
"Throughout our history, leaders have shaped the conditions that have enabled an independent Ireland - one underpinned by the determination of men and women for a society where people are free, where the institutions of State function and where the vulnerable are protected.
"It is, indeed, a privilege and an honour", the chief of staff said, "that Óglaigh na hÉireann, as a key institution of democracy, play a prominent role in the 1916 commemorations as we continue to uphold our values in the domestic operations of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service and on behalf of the Irish people in 15 countries worldwide".
Vice Admiral Mellett said it was also an opportunity for the Defence Forces to recognise the important contribution that the Reserve makes, while acknowledging the tremendous service of their veterans.
"2016 also provides an occasion where the Defence Forces can accentuate the drive towards greater diversity and inclusion in the organisation."
Vice Admiral Mellett, who became Chief of Staff last year and has 40 years' service - much of it seagoing, including three naval commands - said that, internally, members of Óglaigh na hÉireann at home and overseas would reflect on what 1916 meant for them as soldiers, sailors and aircrew and they would host historical talks, tours and exhibitions in their installations and as part of their outreach with society.
In the cultural arena, the Defence Forces School of Music would make a significant contribution to the programme of events, as would the Equitation School in promoting Ireland and the Irish horse.
"The history of Óglaigh na hÉireann can be traced back to the formation of the Irish Volunteers in November 1913. We have a similar uniform, ceremonial orders and insignia.
"As a fundamental institution of the State, with direct links to the Volunteers, an organisation which played such a prominent role in the 1916 Rising, we are honoured to have been invited by the Government to take an unprecedented part across each strand of the State's centenary programme."
The Chief of Staff outlined the seven strands as State ceremonial; historical reflection; the living language; youth and imagination; cultural expression; community participation; and global and diaspora.
The members of the 9,200-strong military organisation will play a part in all strands, in accordance with government policy and on behalf of Ireland and the Irish people. The first two strands will see military personnel involved in 55 State ceremonial events, together with flag-raising ceremonies in each of the 31 local authorities.
"These solemn ceremonies will honour the men and women of 1916. Military Archives, as the custodians of the State's primary collections concerning the Rising, will be centrally involved in the second strand by providing unprecedented access to source material for the revolutionary period and beyond."
He also described the "flags to schools" initiative as a huge success and said the military had relished the opportunity to engage with young people around the country, educating them in the national flag and the significance of the Proclamation.