IUNVA Annual Wreath Laying Ceremony 2014


As published in An Cosantóir in July/August 2014
Report and photos by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

IMG_0994 editOn May 25th 2014, the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) held their 16th annual wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of all Defence Forces personnel, members of An Garda Síochána and civilian personnel who died on UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world. The ceremony was held at the memorial garden in IUNVA’s HQ on Mount Temple Road, behind Arbour Hill Church and Cemetery, where a memorial stone is inscribed with the names of those who sacrificed everything in the cause of world peace. The garden was opened by President Mary McAleese on November 8th 1998.

IMG_0993 editWhat makes this year special is that it is the 25th anniversary of the formation of IUNVA. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of UNFICYP in April 1964, when 606 members of 40 Inf Bn arrived in Cyprus, and the 50th anniversary of the ending of Irish involvement in the Congo when 2 Inf Gp left ONUC in June of the same year.

The ceremony started at 12am with the parade commander, Sgt Major John Egan (retd), marching the UN veterans into position. Then the MC, Comdt George Kerwin (retd), introduced the IUNVA chairman, Michael Butler, to address all those present.

IMG_0985 editDCOS Sp, Rear-Admiral Mark Mellett DSM, addressed the parade, thanking IUNVA for making sure the memories and names of all those that made the ultimate sacrifice for world peace are remembered. Fr Pat Mernagh CF and the Very Rev John Marsden, Dean of Kildare, led those present in prayers and then Airman Michael Whelan read out his poem ‘Fallen Friends’. The roll of honour was then read out by members of IUNVA posts from around the country.

IMG_0946 editIMG_0948 editWreaths were then laid on behalf of the Defence Forces by Airman Michael Whelan (Air Corps), Pte Tadgh Luby (7 Inf Bn) and A/Sea Michelle Thompson (Dublin Unit, NSR). A wreath was also laid by representatives of other armed forces.

After representatives and families laid their own wreaths a minute’s silence was observed by all before a piper’s lament was played followed by ‘The Last Post’. The National Flag was then raised and the bagpipers were joined by two members of the Army Band in playing the National Anthem.

IMG_0970 editThe day went very well and although it was such a solemn occasion it was very uplifting with everyone enjoying the parade and the opportunity to remember lost loved ones in good company.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Defence Forces Veterans’ Day Parade 2014


As published in An Cosantóir in October 2014
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos by Cpl Neville Coughlan

14931744937_81b6d6b6b1_oOn 2nd September 2014 the first Defence Forces Veterans’ Day Parade was held on McDermott Square, DFTC, Curragh Camp. Many veterans from around the country joined under their respective flags. In attendance were the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA), the Organisation of Ex-Servicemen and Women (ONE), along with the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers (ARCO). The Minister for Defence, Mr Simon Coveney TD, officially attended and was accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Conor O’Boyle and Brig Gen Seamus Ó’Giolláin, GOC DFTC.

14931738108_33bd9b436b_oThe Minister in welcoming past servicemen and women confirmed the Defence Forces were committed to our veterans:

“There are many honours and responsibilities associated with service in the Defence Forces. Today I am happy to acknowledge the important service that former servicemen and women have contributed to Irish society in domestic operations and in hostile regions around the world. Today we are recognising the service of all former members of the Defence Forces across all three services, the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps, at home and abroad”.

_EVL2985The Minister complimented the Defence Forces on our 54-years of international peacekeeping:

“The 27th July 1960 was a watershed moment when Ireland sent its first peacekeepers with the 32nd Inf Bn to the Congo, the first complete Irish unit sent overseas as part of a UN mandate. For a further fifty four years the Irish Defence Forces contributed to the cause of peace in places like Lebanon, Chad, Liberia, East Timor and Syria (to name but a few) and continue to do so today”.

The Minister reviewed a parade of the representative associations, and also serving members from the Army, Naval Service and the Air Corps. Following a short multi denominational religious service by Rev Fr John Marsden and Rev Fr PJ Somers CF, and a lament was played by piper CQMS David Usher (Ord Sch), and then the Minister laid a wreath along with the three representative associations to honour our deceased servicemen and women.

15095327196_a472b479b4_oThe Minister finished by paying tribute to the 86 members of the Defence Forces who died on operations at home and abroad in the service of their country, “They paid the ultimate price in the cause of peace”. The day was finished off with light refreshments and displays of current weapons and vehicles and also a display of historical vehicles and weapons brought in by the Irish Military Vehicle Group (IMVG).

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

The Curragh Military Hospital and the Army Nursing Service


As published in An Cosantóir in March, 2012
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald / Photos by Cpl Noel Coss (retd)

302_001The Curragh Military Hospital has a long and varied history. Over many years its staff has treated British troops, World War Two internees, and IRA prisoners, as well as countless numbers of our own troops and their families since the Irish Free State Army took over the hospital from the withdrawing British Army in early September 1922.

Photo 1

Members of the newly formed Army Nursing Service outside the Curragh Hospital in 1922, the only person identified is Sister Mary Ward (back row centre) from Kilfenora, Co. Clare, who was Lt Col CJ Browne’s great-aunt.

One of its busiest periods was during the 1970s when many prominent Republican prisoners were treated there, including a number who had gone on hunger strike in Portlaoise Prison. Many of the current sisters of the Army Nursing Service (ANS) came to the hospital during the ‘70s, and they speak very admirably of this period in the hospital’s history. Staff Sister Miriam Hyland told us that when she came in 1976 there were 34 sisters in the hospital providing full-time care 24/7, 365 days a year for soldiers, and from 1983/4 to their families as well.

Photo 2

This document is an Army Form C. 348, dated 6th June 1904, from OC 11th Hussars asking for his men to be inoculated on a Sunday, and the hospital’s OC replying that Sunday was not convenient.

The Curragh hospital was the first to be licensed to inoculate against yellow fever within the Defence Forces and over the last five decades the majority of our troops who have travelled overseas on UN peace-keeping missions have received their inoculations there.
In the current era, the hospital’s main function is in the area of occupational healthcare, with the sisters specialising in vaccinations and operating the family clinic (the only one in service in the DF) and is centred on primary care. With only five sisters remaining the hospital provides out-patient and specialist clinics to soldiers, and GP care to their families. With the reduction in staff, the hospital now provides only a 9-5 military medical facility and the family clinic.

Photo 3

The remaining members of the ANS at the Curragh: (l/r) Sisters Margaret Grelish, Merriam Hyland, Sheila Deasy, Marion Cleary. (Not in the photo is Sister Finola Neylon.)

With an average service of 32 years and a combined service of 158 years, the remaining sisters have some great memories, and also some tragic ones, from over the years.
An interesting little fact we came across was a door on the now decommissioned chapel, which carried a sign saying ‘The blessed sacrament is not revered here’ and yet it still houses statues made by a Benedictine monk in the 1970s.

Whatever the future holds for the hospital, we hope the long-standing ghost story of the army nurse in her grey uniform and red cape doing her rounds in Ward 7 in the middle of the night doesn’t put off any prospective tenant.

Photo 4

Sister Deasy cares for a young family member Aaron Fitzgerald.

We would like to thank Lt Col C Browne (Rtd), Lt Col M Murphy (OC CMH) and the sisters for kindly speaking to us and allowing us to visit.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

The Naval Association (An Cumann Chabhlaigh)


NA BadgeAs published in An Cosantóir in March, 2012
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald with photos Tom Lawlor (INA)

The Naval Association (INA) was established in 1962 and termed An Cumann Chabhlaigh. The Naval Association and its constitution was approved in May 1977 by the then Minister of Defence, Mr Oliver J. Flanagan, T.D. Membership of the Association is restricted to serving and retired Officers, NCOs and Ratings of the Naval Service, the Naval Service Reserve (formally An Slua Muirí) and the Marine Service (1939-1946) and the Maritime Inscription (1939-1947).

At a meeting held at the Stella Maris Seafarers Club, Dublin on 24th March 1992, an Executive Council was elected and the first branch of the association was formed and subsequently called the Leading Seaman Michael Quinn Branch after L/S Quinn DSM who in 1990 gave his young life (27) in an attempt to rescue 16 stranded Spanish Sailors from their stricken trawler Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, (Our Lady of Gardtoza) on rocks off Bantry Bay.


Irish Naval Association General Secretary Declan Pendred parades INA Colours.

The aims of the Association are: To promote Social, Cultural, Educative and Sporting Activities; To establish a comprehensive listing of all ex members of the different sections of the Naval Services since 1939; To render Aid and Assistance, when necessary; To promote and further interests in matters appertaining to the sea; To maintain the sea faring traditions of the Irish Nation.


Irish Naval Association President Gerry Kennedy, laying a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial.

Active Branches of The Naval Association have been established in Dublin, Waterford and Limerick.
On Sept 11th 2011, The Irish Naval Association was invited to participate with the RNA at their Bi-Annual commemoration ceremony to the Cenotaph in London.

With over 360 Shipmates parading in Whitehall London with 62 Area and Branch standards and the National Standards of the Royal Naval Association (RNA), The Royal Marines Association (RMA), The Association of Wrens (WRNS) and the Irish Naval Association (INA).


Note the privileged position given to the association at the Cenotaph.

Prior to the ceremony in London, the INA spent the preceding evening with the RNA Birkenhead Branch, where a great evening was had by all, with a singing competition taking place between the two organisations, and according to the RNA:

 “The Irish Association contingent led the singing but the drinking competition was declared a draw!”

INA National PRO Terry Cummins presented the chairman of the Birkenhead Branch with a framed embroidered INA Crest. The Irish Naval Association also wants to say a big thank you again to their Secretary Tony Cheyney and Becky and all the lads for a great evening…

For further info: The Naval Association, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Naval Service Reserve HQ, Rathmines, Dublin 6 – Ph: 01 2986614 – email: navalassociation@eircom.net – Web:
http://homepage.eircom.net/~navalassociation/index.htm or contact Declan Pendred, National General Secretary – Ph: 087 6998724


Commodore Mark Mellett DSM (FOCNS) and Lt Malachi O’Gallagher (Retd.) INA after receiving the Christy King Asgard Award at the presentation of the NA Service Medal awarded by National President Gerry Kennedy Naval Association.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Fallen Hero Honoured – Pte Gerard Killeen


As published in An Cosantóir on October 1, 2011
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald with photos by Armn Neville Coughlan

Pte KilleenOn the 30th August 2011, a lecture room in Cathal Brugha Bks was named in honour of a fallen colleague of the staff of the 2nd Eastern Brigade Training Centre (2 E BTC). The Private Killeen Lecture Room, located in ‘B’ block on the main square.

810242 Pte Gerard Killeen joined the Defence Forces in February 1952, after serving 6-years in the 2 Inf Bn, he then transferred to the Command Training Depot East (CTD E, then named 2 E BTC) on his qualifying as a cook, this was following in his father’s footsteps.

PlauqeIn August 1960, Pte Killeen was deployed overseas to the Congo as a Peace-keeper with ‘A’ Coy, 33 Inf Bn. As part of a 706 strong Battalion with the newly founded UN mission ONUC (l’Opération des Nations Uniesau Congo). The Congo was only granted independence on 30th June 1960, after almost a century of Belgian rule. This was the first armed overseas mission undertaken by the Defence Forces since the foundation of the state.

summer 11 xx 002Pte Killeen was killed (along with 8 others) on the 8th November 1960 at a river crossing near the village of Niemba in Katanga, when an eleven-man Irish patrol was ambushed by Baluba tribesmen. This was, and still remains, the greatest loss of life for the Defence Forces in a single incident overseas.

Pte Gerard Killeen was posthumously awarded An Réalt Míleata – The Military Star.

CertThe other members of that fatal patrol were:

Lieutenant Kevin Gleeson – 2 Field Engineer Company
Sergeant Hugh Gaynor – 2 Motor Squadron
Corporal Peter Kelly – 5 Infantry Battalion
Corporal Liam Dougan – 5 Infantry Battalion
Private Matthew Farrell – 2 Hospital Company
Trooper Thomas Fennell – 2 Motor Squadron
Private Michael McGuinn – 2 Field Engineer Company
Trooper Anthony Browne MMG – 2 Motor Squadron

May Gerard’s soul, and all the souls of Defence Forces personnel who died while serving at home and overseas, rest in peace ‘Amen’

summer 11 xx 006The Killeen Room GroupThe Killeen Room Group: Standing Back Row: Sgt Cole, Cpl Mc Guinness, Capt Freely, CQMS Pender, Cpl McDonagh, Sgt Tuite, Coy Sgt Masterson, Sgt Pearse, Lt Ryan, Lt Whelan and Capt Curtis. Sitting Front Row: Coy Sgt John de Lacy (Retd), Mrs Catherine Homan (Wife), Comdt Maureen O’Brien OC 2 E BTC, Mr Gerard Killeen (Son) and Col JJ O’Reilly (EO 2 E Bde)

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Veterans Remember


50th Anniversary of the 36 Inf Bn, United Mission in the Congo – Opération des Nations unies au Congo (ONUC).

As published in An Cosantóir in October 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald, Photos by Airman Neville Coughlan


On the 30th August 2011, I met with some members from ‘A’ Coy, 36 Inf Bn – who served in the Congo 50 years ago. Here is a brief glimpse of their memories:

Pte Woolley

Pte John Woolley

Pte John Woolley
Unit: Spt Coy, 2 Inf Bn – Service: 6 years, Enlisted 1 Jan 1960 – Overseas: 34, 36, 2 Inf Gp – Congo and 41 Inf Bn – Cyprus
“I was at the now famous ‘Battle of the Tunnel’, and one of my favourite memories is of our Pln Sgt Joe Scott, he was a great man and one who I greatly admire to this day”

Pte Confrey

Pte Tony Confrey

Pte Tony Confrey
Unit: 5 Inf Bn – Service: 3 years, Enlisted in 1960 – Overseas: 36 Inf Bn
Served as a Marksman on the Vickers Machine and was also at the Battle for the Tunnel. “My first experience was just before landing on ‘Chalk 2’, we received gun fire from the ground. On later inspection, we discovered 40 hits on the fuselage; two storage tanks were leaking aviation fuel. Our biggest fear was unloading the US Globe master in double-time wearing hob-nailed boots”. “Within two days we had our first casualty, Cpl Mick Fallon (5 Inf Bn) and within a week at Liege Crossroads, we came under heavy mortar fire for many days. Where I received shrapnel wound to my hip, I was medically treated locally and then about fifteen years later I was still being treated and doctors discovered more shrapnel”.

finished 13

Pte Confrey’s memorabilia including his latest piece of removed shrapnel


CQMS Clarke

CQMS James ‘Nobby’ Clarke

CQMS James ‘Nobby’ Clarke
Unit: 2 Garrison S&T – Service: 43years, Enlisted in 1959
“We all have many memories of our service with A Coy and it is very difficult to condense them into a few words. However, our long haul flight of 24 hours duration Dublin – Tripoli – Kano – Leopoldville and finally Elizabethville and a very hostile ‘Reception’ we got. We went out as Peace Keepers but overnight we became Peace Enforcers. One will never forget the prolonged bombardment at Liege Crossroads which included mortar, small arms and sniper fire and eventually leading up to the capture of the Tunnel – Our Tunnel. As a result of many acts of bravery and courage displayed by the members of A Coy, it later became the most decorated sub unit in the history of our Defence Forces – with the award of 14 Distinguished Service Medals an achievement unlikely to be surpassed. A conventional war fighting company-in-attack action had not, nor since, been undertaken by the Irish Army in combat. During the hostilities of that December we suffered 4 fatalities – Lt Paddy Riordan(DSM) & Pte Andy Wickham both Killed in Action (KIA), Sgt Paddy Mulcahy (DSM) & Cpl Mick Fallon both died from wounds received in earlier actions. In addition 14 more were wounded – some seriously. An Annual Commemoration is held in December to remember our comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who have died since”.

finished 14

CQMS Clarke’s photo album, where every page tells a story

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Super-Trooper – Sean Campion (RIP)


As published in An Cosantóir in February 2015.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald


Sean and Mick in Connolly Hospital

When Mick Hennessy, a former private with 2 Inf Bn, was admitted to Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown, he struck up a conversation with his neighbour in the next bed. The other man, Sean Campion (68), then said:

“I have to go shave, as I got used to shaving every day while in the army.”

When Mick told him he had served a few years himself a great camaraderie developed, as it generally does when any two ex-servicemen or women meet up – full of humour and plenty of slagging! Despite a 40-year age difference the two guys got on great and since Mick’s release from hospital he has continued to visit Sean. After hearing the story, staff from An Cosantóir also visited Sean on a few occasions to hear his story and see how he was keeping.

Sean enlisted with 4 Motor Sqn in Plunkett Bks, Curragh Camp, in January 1967; “on a wage of six pounds five shillings,” he recalls. During his time in the DF, Sean completed a Ranger’s course (in 1969 with the late Lt Gen Dermot Early as one of his instructors), experienced the early days of the Troubles, and served in Cyprus with 23 Inf Gp, UNFICYP.


Irish troops being briefed prior to their departure for Cyprus in the 1960s. C/O www.curragh.info

In 1974 Sean emigrated to Australia for £25 pounds (borrowed from his sister), working for a few months in a Dunlop factory, before signing up to serve in the Australian Armoured Corps from 1975-78. “There was a big difference from the Irish Defence Forces,” Sean says, “and even getting used to drill orders in English wasn’t as easy as it sounds.” He was issued with an FN self-loading rifle (SLR), which he kept by his bunk every night, signing out the bolt from the armoury every morning. He was stationed in Puckapunyal (Valley of the Seven Winds), central Victoria and still has his passing out parade on Super 8mm film.


Two Leopard MBTs cross the Mary River floodplain. Artist: Barry Spicer © www.barryspicer.com

Sean served as a tank gunner/radio operator on the Centurion and also trained on the Leopard, the first German-built tank since WW2. His regimental sergeant major was Gus Ballantyne, a German WW2 veteran who Sean recalls as being “a real hard bastard!”


2 Cav Sqn renders the drive-past salute to Brig Gen ‘Rinty’ Monaghan (GOC E Comd), as they leave Griffiths Bks for Cathal Brugha Bks on 15th September 1988. Photo: Military Archives.

Returning to Ireland in 1978, he re-enlisted and after a short refresher course was posted to 2 Cav Sqn, Griffith Bks. He served with 48 Inf Bn, UNIFIL, and in 1982 he transferred to the cadre staff of 11 Cav Sqn, Griffith Bks where he served, first in Griffiths Bks and then Cathal Brugha Bks, until he retired in 1993.

Sean was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago and deteriorating health led to his current stay in hospital where he is recovering from the amputation of the lower half of his right leg. Nevertheless, he is in good spirits and says he is getting healthier and stronger every day with medication, physiotherapy and great care from the hospital staff. Although wheelchair-bound at present, he is looking forward to receiving a prosthetic limb so he can get walking again.


Sean keeps himself busy reading and watching movies, and has a large collection of books and DVDs, mostly military related. He takes particular inspiration from the film Reach for the Sky (1956), the true story of Douglas Bader, who overcame the loss of both legs to become a successful fighter pilot in World War II.

During his hospitalisation, Sean has been immensely cheered by visits from members of ONEt, IUNVA, and the IDFVA. He is still warmly remembered by former colleagues and we wish him well on his road to recovery.

For information on diabetes contact: Diabetes Ireland (CHY 6906), 19 Northwood House, Northwood Business Campus, Santry, Dublin 9. Tel: 01 842 8118 or email: info@diabetes.iewww.diabetes.ie

Sadly Trooper Sean (Campo) Campion passed away peacefully in hospital in the early hours of the 9th April 2015. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam – “May his soul be on God’s right side”

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Kilbride Camp Open Day


As published in An Cosantóir in August 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Cpl Greg Dorney

Kilbride 4

Potential new recruit Jack McKay

On 20th June 2011 on a lovely hot summer’s day, over 100 children gathered to watch and enjoy an open day in Kilbride Camp, County Wicklow, one of the Defence Forces’ most used training facilities, which can house up to 140 troops and their equipment. Not since the British Army were billeted in tents there in the late 1800s has the Stage Five area seen so many potential new recruits!

Kilbride 2

Sniper spotted

The children from the neighbouring St Bridget’s national school in Manor Kilbride were invited by the Camp Commandant, Comdt Patrick Lavelle, to view a number of military displays provided by a variety of units and corps from throughout the Defence Forces. It was hoped that these displays would give the children an understanding of what goes on in the Kilbride training area and what causes those loud bangs and explosions they may hear from time to time in school or at home.

The children and two of their teachers, Ms Bernie Shorne and Ms Ciara Coakley, were guided around by the camp’s senior NCO, CQMS Patrick McKay, who gave them a safety brief and told the children to keep an eye out for any lost or wandering adults. Most of the camp staff also brought along their own small children to view the displays and to see where Daddy worked.

Kilbride 1

Section under attack

The displays started at 11am with Cpl Clive Dunne leading his section (from 5 Inf Bn) in arrowhead formation across open ground in search of a hidden ‘enemy’. This demonstration was being explained to the now very excited children by a lieutenant from the 5 Inf Bn, who able fielded a barrage of questions coming rapid fire from his young audience. It wasn’t long before Cpl Dunne’s section came under fire from an enemy sniper. After taking cover in a nearby ditch the section carried out a left-flanking attack under cover of smoke on the enemy sniper who was being pinned down by the section’s FSG.
After the fire-fight was over all the participants moved to a position in front of the children to give them a close-up view of the soldiers and their equipment.

Kilbride 5

AW139 comes in for a closer look

Within minutes of the end of this display an Air Corps AW139 helicopter swooped down out of the sky. The aircraft, piloted by Capt O’Reilly and Lt Hynes, whizzed into view and hovered above the viewing stand to allow the crewman, Sgt Mark Dunne, to wave briefly at the children. The ‘Wow!’-effect as the children watched this great, green beast perform some quick and exciting manoeuvres above them was clearly written all over their faces. The pilots then landed the heli in the camp on a hard stand among the other displays still awaiting the children.

Kilbride 6

Sniper School

Also on view in the display area in the camp were a mobile EOD unit from 2 E Bde Ord Coy, manned by Cpls Carl Esmonde and John Groarke, who provided a close-up view of their equipment, and members of 5 Inf Bn with battalion support weapons and a sniper rifle system, complete with spotting scope set up for all to try. However, it was the AW139 that stole the show, with so many of the children and the adults wanting their photograph taken at the aircraft.

The day finally ended with everyone being treated to a hearty lunch in the brand new dining facility, which cost €1 million to build and equip. The excellent meal, prepared and served by Cpl Ian Barry (2 LSB) and his staff, provided many different choices for their hungry young guests.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Veterans Recall Happy Memories


As published in An Cosantóir in October 2012.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Cpl Noel Coss

IMG_2586IMG_2608On 2nd August 2012 staff from An Cosantóir visited Hamilton Park Residential Facility in Balrothery, Co Dublin. The centre looks after people with a range of health problems, including Alzheimer’s illness and brain injuries and provides pre- and post-transplant convalescent care, as well as day care and respite care. IMG_2612Two of the facility’s residents are retired Defence Forces personnel, Pte Oliver Reilly and Sgt Patrick Reilly (no relation).

Oliver (aged 76), from Stamullen, Co Meath, served in Gormanston Camp with Tpt Pl, Air Corps Admin Coy, from1957-1980. Oliver is a veteran of 37 Inf Gp ONUC, Congo, and also served with UNICYP, Cyprus, in 1973. Patrick (aged 86) from Granard, Co Longford, served 25 years and also finished his service in Gormanston Camp, although he had a long career prior to that with 5 Inf Bn in Collins Bks, Dublin.

The two former soldiers’ behavioural therapist in the centre is a serving RDF member, Cpl Gillian Dunne of A Coy, 65 Inf Bn, based in Swords. Gillian, who has served six years in the RDF, had contacted us to let us know about the two retirees who still enjoy having the Cosantóir read out to them. Director of Nursing, Debra Lynch, said that along with family visits, seeing us in uniform and hearing stories from An Cosantóir will help Patrick and Oliver to relive their old soldiering memories, which also helps the residence with their care.


Pictured (L/R): Debra Lynch, Patrick Reilly, Oliver Reilly and Gillian Dunne

We hope our two former colleagues will enjoy this article and we send them our best wishes.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Technician to Poet – Armn Michael Whelan


As published in An Cosantóir in November 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

Airman Michael Whelan MA, winner of the Paul Tissandier Diploma 2010 awarded by Federation Aeronautical Internationale and if that wasn’t enough he came joint second in the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award 2011 for a collection of unpublished work titled ‘Against the Black Sky, We Listen: An Irish Peacekeepers Poems’.

Armn Whelan 2Michael joined the Defence Forces in Feb 1990 with the 36th Recruit Platoon, CTD E. He was then posted to the Admin Wing of the Air Corps in Baldonnel from 1990-94. In 1994 he was posted to Air Spt Signals and served as a Radio Operator in South Lebanon with the 75th Inf Bn, he stayed in Signals until 1997. He was successful in gaining an apprenticeship as an Air Craft Technician in Spray Painting/Panel Beating with the Air Corps College and Bolton Street from 1997-02. When he finished his trade he was posted to Engr Wing (now No 4 Spt Wing). In 2000/01 Michael served with the 3rd Tpt Coy KFOR as a Radio Operator, which was a busy time during the first free elections in Kosovo.


Armn Whelan

It was in 2001 that he indulged his interest in History and commenced a degree course in Local and Community Studies with NUI Maynooth. During his studies he asked the then CAS OPS – Col Paul Fry (now GOC AC) if he could start collecting pieces of Air Corps History. He began with a small pile of interesting artefacts in the corner of No 4 hanger and again Col Fry gave him permission to display the collection and it has grown to a now well respected and much visited collection of Air Corps aviation history.

In 2002 Michael received his Certificate in Local History, in 2003 he was awarded a Diploma in Local/Community Studies and in 2005 his BA in Local History.

The Battle of Jadotville2006 saw him awarded an MA in Modern History and in the same year he wrote his first book ‘The Battle of Jadotville: Irish Soldiers in Combat in the Congo 1961’ published by South Dublin Libraries (SDL) and is a well sought after publication. During 2009 he self printed ‘On Hurting Ground: Poetic Silhouettes on Soldiers, History, Love and Tragedy,’ which is a collection of poems with all the proceeds split 50/50 between The Marie Keating Foundation and The Irish Heart Foundation. His latest offering titled ‘Allegiances Compromised: Faith, Honour and Allegiance – Ex British Soldiers in the Irish Army 1913-1924’ (2011) was also published by SDL.

will-you-answer-the-call-for-webMichael has had his work published in too many literary magazines to mention and is a constant contributor to An Cosantóir. He is a member of the Military History Society of Ireland and the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust. He was involved in the South Dublin Heritage Plan (June 2011). He was appointed by the Defence Forces Chief of Staff to the Editorial Committee for the 1916 Anniversary Commemorations in 2006. United Nations 50th Anniversary of Peacekeeping publications June 2008, he also edited the 32 and 33 Irish Battalion Congo Histories (unpublished).


Airman Michael Whelan, nominated by the National Aero Club of Ireland (NACI) and Brig Gen Paul Fry, General Officer Commanding the Air Corps (GOC AC) was awarded the Paul Tissandier Diploma 2010 by Federation Aeronautic Internationale.

The Citation reads:

“Airman Michael Whelan, No 4 Spt Wing, Irish Air Corps through his curatorship of the Air Corps Military Aviation Museum, his contribution to the collation of Irish military history and his literary publications, has enhanced the standing of the Air Corps and the Defence Forces nationwide. The importance of his contribution to the preservation of aeronautical artefacts is deserving of great praise.”

Visit Michael’s personal blog for many of his stories and poetry: https://michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com/

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.