Thursday 30 March 2017

Leaders pay tribute to ex-Defence chief

Former Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Dermot Earley who has died, the Defence Forces said today. Photo: PA
Former Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Dermot Earley who has died, the Defence Forces said today. Photo: PA
Dermot Earley speaking to a member of the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) last year. Photo: PA

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and President Mary McAleese tonight led tributes to soldier and sportsman Lieutenant General Dermot Earley, former Defence Forces Chief of Staff who has died.

The 62-year-old died after a long battle with illness and ten days after he stepped aside as the country`s most senior army officer.

The Taoiseach said Lt Gen Earley through his commitment, intelligence, leadership and charisma brought great distinction to himself, his family and Ireland.

"Dermot was a great role model for everyone in our Defence Forces and he was an innovative and extremely competent Chief of Staff who carried out his duties with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of efficiency," Mr Cowen said.

"Dermot Earley bravely and selflessly gave of himself to build peace across the globe.

"His courageous work with the UN was rooted in a desire to bring peace to people in the parts of the world who had only previously known conflict."

The Taoiseach, who honoured the Lt Gen with a Distinguished Service Medal in April, described him as a true champion of peace.

Born in 1948, Lt Gen Earley joined the Defence Forces as a cadet in 1965. He was one of the first soldiers to become an Army Ranger and served on a UN mission in the Middle East from 1975 to 1977, Lebanon in 1982/83 and again in 1997 and also with the UN in New York.

President McAleese said he was an outstanding soldier with a military career characterised by exceptional professionalism and dedication to service.

"Dermot's personal attributes of high integrity and strong character first came to the fore on the GAA pitch where he distinguished himself on many occasions; these same qualities would serve him well in military life," the President said.

"A fine ambassador for both the Defence Forces and for his country, his service to international peacekeeping in the Middle East, in Lebanon and with the United Nations greatly enhanced Ireland's reputation around the world."

Widely recognised for using his UN experience to help reform and modernise the Defence Forces, Lt Gen Earley also enjoyed a 20 year footballing career at the highest level.

He won two All-Stars with Roscommon and narrowly missed out on an All-Ireland medal after his county was beaten by Kerry in the 1980 final.

After tours overseas he was appointed deputy military adviser to the Secretary General at the UN headquarters in New York from 1987 to 1991 and moved to Long Island with his family.

He is survived by his mother Kitty, his wife Mary, sons David, Dermot and Conor and daughters Paula, Ann-Marie and Noelle and grandson Oisin.

The Defence Forces said a military funeral was being planned with the family for the end of the week.

Lieutenant General Sean McCann, who took over his post, said he was deeply saddened to hear of his colleague's death.

"He was a man of exceptional personal qualities, who made an enormous contribution to the Defence Forces throughout his 44 years of distinguished service," he said.

"He was a hugely talented officer, whose personal charm and charisma, together with his extraordinary leadership skills, won him universal respect and admiration throughout the organisation and the entire country."

Lt Gen McCann praised the former chief for helping to modernise the Defence Forces and enhancing their reputation at home and overseas.

"An iconic figure, General Earley represented the Defence Forces, both nationally and internationally, in a manner that instilled pride and confidence in those he commanded," he said.

Jimmy Deenihan, Fine Gael spokesman, a friend of Lt Gen Earley for 35 years, expressed his sorrow at the death.

"Dermot Earley's record of service to the Defence Forces is one of distinction as exemplified by the Distinguished Service Medal he was awarded last April," Mr Deenihan said.

Labour's Brian O'Shea said: "As one of our finest Gaelic football players, General Earley was a colossus on every field that he graced.

"If his sporting career was characterised by strong leadership and determination, so too was his military life."

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