Image Of The Week: The Irish Defence Forces During Covid-19
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Irish Defence Forces/Óglaigh na hÉireann & the Irish Coast Guard have demonstrated their usual exemplary professionalism and organisational skills. All branches responded with speed and focus whether it be Irish Naval positioning resources at several major cities, the Irish Army providing support to our hospitals or the Irish Air Corps flying Covid-19 tests to Germany and helping deliver PPE. The members of our Defence Forces carry out their duties with quiet determination and humility and have once again distinguished themselves during Ireland's hour of need.
All photographs and images below courtesy of Óglaigh na hÉireann.
Óglaigh na hÉireann which translates as 'Volunteers of Ireland' has its origins in the War of Independence (1919-1921) and emerged as the standing professional forces of the Irish Free State. To establish itself as carrying on the tradition of the pre-independence movement, the Irish Army adopted Óglaigh na hÉireann as its Irish language name and also adopted the cap badge and buttons of the Irish Volunteers. As the Irish State emerged on the world stage the role of the Defence Forces also increased.
President Kennedy presciently commented to the Dail in June, 1963: "Your destiny lies not as a peaceful island in a sea of troubles, but as a maker and shaper of world peace." And so it has proven to be. Since 1958, the Defence Forces has the longest, unbroken record in peace keeping operations, which was recently acknowledged by Jean Pierre Lacroix, United Nationas Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, with Irish peacekeepers have completed over 70,000 individual tours.
The Defence Forces, in particular the Irish Navy, played a prominent role in the recent migrate crisis in the Mediterranean, working in extremely distressful conditions and saving in excess of 17,000 lives. The Navy also protects our extensive waters, which has a size 10 times greater than the landmass of Ireland, help enforce maritime law and carry out frequent patrol and search operations.
A graphic depicting the enormous size of the Irish Continental Shelf.
The Defence Forces responded quickly and extensively to assist the government with the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Irish Army built additional hospital and medical testing areas, transported and distributed much needed PPE and medical equipment. It also provided communication, organisational and technological assistance. They also assigned Defence Force personnel to tracking and tracing and the construction of additional item of PPE.
The Irish Navy stationed several of its ships in key Irish cities, including Dublin, Cork and Galway as potential spill over zones in case hospitals were overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. This support was very much appreciated by local emergency services as illustrated in the photography below, where members of Dublin's Fire Brigade provided a quayside 'Guard of Honour'.
Irish Air Corps
The Irish Air Corps, along with carrying out their ceremonial duties around the Easter Rising, also provided transportation for Covid-19 patients as well as the transportation of Covid tests to Germany for analysis. This took place while the Air Corps continued to provide firefighting support, air ambulance transfers and other much needed support.
Irish Coast Guard
Despite the added risks, the Irish Coast Guard continued to provide the necessary support along our country's coastline and beyond. This included dealing with young children at risk of being washed out to sea on inflatable toys, recusing sick crew members many miles off the Irish coast, island evacuations and sadly, searching for missing persons.
Hopefully the Irish government fully appreciates the role of the Defence Forces during Covid-19 and moves quickly to resolve long standing issues around pay and conditions which have negatively impacted retention while also examining the resourcing of a modern military, which should probably include transport aircraft needed for long-haul supply flights, something that appeared to be lacking in this crisis and which no doubt will be needed in the future.
Successive Irish governments have wisely adhered to a national policy of neutrality while the Defence Forces do not play an overly militarised roled in Irish national life, rather it complements government policy and provides secruity and support when the State needs it.
The Crossing documentary tells the story of LÉ Samuel Beckett of the Irish Navy rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean, click here
For the Óglaigh na hÉireann website, click here
Irish Examiner Article on the Defence Forces, click here