Cowen honours Defence Force chief
Taoiseach Brian Cowen presented the Defence Force Chief of Staff, Dermot Earley, who is suffering from ill health, with a distinguished service medal at a private ceremony at the Earley family home in Newbridge, Co Kildare, last week.
Lt Gen Earley is expected to retire shortly.
The presentation of the highest service award was in breach of normal protocol -- it is usually presented by the Defence Minister -- on agreement with the Taoiseach, who is a friend of Lt Gen Earley.
Lt Gen Earley has been out of office and receiving medical treatment since becoming ill towards the end of last year.
The ceremony on Wednesday evening was attended by Lt Gen Earley's wife, Mary, their six children, Defence Minister Tony Killeen and the two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, Major Gens Dave Ashe and Sean McCann.
There was no comment yesterday from either the Defence Forces or the Government Press Office. However, sources said that the ceremony was strictly private and "quiet" at the family's request.
Lt Gen Earley, 62, played senior inter-county football for Roscommon from 1965 until 1985 and subsequently managed his county team before becoming manager of Kildare. He comes from Ballinlough in Roscommon.
Lt Gen Earley joined the Army in 1965 and served abroad with the UN on several occasions including tours in the Middle East. He also held a number of senior positions in the UN, including military adviser to the secretary general in New York, 1987-1991. He is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies and holds a Master's in peace and development studies.
He undertook the Ranger Course in the Defence Forces, which led to the establishment of special operations training and the establishment of the elite Ranger Wing in 1980. He has been Chief of Staff for six years.