Dáil Éireann - Volume 352 - 21 June, 1984

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Army Day.

17. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence if he agrees that there should be a national Army day each year.

Mr. Cooney: The Defence Forces are already involved in a number of ceremonial occasions, the principal ones [76] being:—(1) The annual Commemoration Ceremony at Arbour Hill which is a State ceremony to commemorate the 1916 leaders, and (2) Commemoration Day for all deceased members of the Defence Forces on November each year. The ceremonies take the form of church parades and Masses.

The present operational demands on the Defence Forces preclude the holding of any additional major occasions of a ceremonial nature.

Mr. Bell: Is the Minister aware that, among the ranks of the various sections of Defence Forces, there is a very strong wish for a national day of commemoration? I take the point the Minister made. Would he agree that the Arbour Hilltype commemoration is no different from the type of commemoration organised by a number of other organisations and is not appropriate to a proper national day of commemoration for the armed forces? Would he agree that Ireland is the only country in the EEC, or in Western Europe, that has not got a national day of commemoration for the Army?

Mr. Cooney: We may be at odds about what is involved. The Deputy asked if I agreed that there should be a national Army day each year. I am not aware that there is any feeling in the Army of dissatisfaction with the present commemorative arrangements in which the Army participate. There is a separate Army special holiday on 11 July and there is the all Army week when there is a whole series of competitions and other events especially for the Army. This is regarded as a special week within the life of the Army.

Mr. Bell: I am aware of that, having participated in the force for 29 years. That is not the point I was making. Is the Minister aware of the representations which have been made to Members of the House, and I assume to his Department, by senior Army officers at chief of staff level and by retired officers for a national Army day for the whole Army and not for a particular sector?

[77] Mr. Cooney: I am aware that a group of retired officers have been in contact with the parties in this House to put forward their views on a commemorative ceremony.

Mr. Bell: As a result of those representations, will the Minister be giving consideration to the proposal submitted to him?

Mr. Cooney: Undoubtedly, following the meeting between that group of officers and the various parties in the House, proposals will be coming to me and I will consider anything that comes before me.

Mr. Bell: Is the Minister aware that a number of years ago there was a major parade at Easter weekends in Dublin city, and various units around the country were represented at that parade, but it was discontinued?

Mr. Cooney: I am so aware. As I indicated to the Deputy in my original reply, the present operational demands on the Defence Forces preclude the holding of any additional major occasions of a ceremonial nature. The Defence Forces are severely stretched and to mount a major ceremonial parade of the type that used be held at Easter would put undue and unreasonable demands on the Defence Forces as of now.