Defence Forces are restating ownership of Oglaigh na hEireann title in run-up to centenary celebrations, says Jim Cusack
The Defence Forces have strongly reasserted the illegitimacy of terror groups still terming themselves Oglaigh na hEireann.
This year they commemorate the centenary of the foundation of the Irish Volunteers. And according to the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Sean McCann, the Defence Forces have a "unique" role in the history of the State.
"Oglaigh na hEireann has occupied a unique position in Irish Society for the past 100 years, from its foundation at the Rotunda Rink, Dublin, on November 25, 1913, through to the present day. Our organisation, the Irish Defence Forces, will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Irish Volunteers, Oglaigh na hEireann, throughout 2013," he said.
The use of the term Oglaigh na hEireann by the Provisional IRA and its "dissident" successors has angered members of the Defence Forces for decades. And its use by Sinn Fein leaders, in reference to the Provisional IRA, is a continuing irritant for serving and retired members of the Defence Forces.
The Irish (National) Volunteers, or Oglaigh na hEireann, were established in response to the founding of the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1912, and the Defence Forces are to restate their ownership of the title Oglaigh na hEireann over illegal groups in the run-up to this year's centenary celebrations.
Lt Gen McCann outlined the major changes which the Defence Forces have been undergoing. Over the past 12 months they have reduced manpower to 9,500 members, the lowest level since 1971.
"I do not underestimate the challenge that this plan brought [but] while this change has been worked through, we have continued our operations and training at the highest tempo both at home, in our skies, overseas and in our territorial waters. By any measure, all arms of the Defence Forces are busier, more effective and delivering more with less," said Lt Gen McCann.
Senior military sources have pointed to last month's Central Statistics Office report, Earnings and Labour Costs, which showed Defence Forces numbers have fallen by 7.4 per cent compared with an average reduction across the public service of 4.1 per cent.
Lt Gen McCann also paid tribute to the peacekeeping work of the Defence Forces which currently have 440 personnel serving in 17 missions in 15 countries.
During 2012, army bomb disposal teams were called out more than 200 times and dealt with 94 viable improvised explosive devices.
The Air Corps completed 98 Air Ambulance Missions last year, up from a total of 78 in 2011. The pilot Emergency Aeromedical Service based in Athlone launched 113 missions in 2012, while the Naval Service completed 1,325 boardings and made 20 detentions for alleged infringements of fishing regulations.
The Chief of Staff pointed out that the Navy patrols 132,000 square miles of sea "approximately four times the land mass of Ireland, representing 15 per cent of Europe's fisheries".
The specialist Naval Service Dive Team was called out to 80 operations in 2012, mainly searches for missing persons, including an operation on Christmas Day in Cork.
He said the process of reorganising the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) would be finalised this year.
"We have endeavoured to maintain the geographical footprint and regional dimension of the RDF within the revised resources available. This challenging process is necessary to guarantee the future viability of the Reserve."