Today the Minister for Defence and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Simon Coveney T.D. launched the Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces in the Curragh Camp, along with Jacqui McCrum Secretary-General of the Department of Defence, Lt General Sean Clancy, Defence Forces Chief of Staff and Aidan O’Driscoll, Chairperson of the Commission on the Defence Forces.
1. The Commission on the Defence Forces in their report launched on 9th February 2022, recommended the establishment of an Office of Veterans’ Affairs (OVA). This has been a strategic goal for ONE for a number of years and is included under Goal 3 of our Strategic Plan – Building for the Future.
Page 72, para 7.11 Veterans Affairs states:
“The Commission recommends the establishment of an Office of Veterans’ Affairs which would coordinate veteran support across government departments and local authorities, would enhance collaboration between recognised veterans’ associations, would provide transition support for retirees, and would provide much-needed advice, assistance and support to veterans and their families.”
2. An Office of Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) is a common feature that governments put in place as the strategic delivery agency tasked with co-ordinating the achievement of the objectives of Veterans’ Policy. ONE recommended that the OVA would operate in a similar manner to the Office of Emergency Planning in the Department of Defence. The Office of Emergency Planning is a joint Civil/Military Office which co-ordinates emergency planning at a national level. The Office of Emergency Planning works with all relevant government departments and other key public authorities in order to ensure the best possible use of resources and compatibility across different emergency planning requirements. Establishing the OVA in a similar manner to the Office of Emergency Planning would help ensure that the delivery of the Governments’ Veterans’ Policy was not solely within the purview of the Department of Defence but also included other relevant departments, authorities and agencies.
3. The envisaged role of the OVA includes:
a. Facilitating and coordinating the delivery of a range of services to veterans.
b. Providing opportunities for veterans to have their service acknowledged.
c. Managing the Government’s relationship with veterans and their representative organisations.
d. Advising Government on veterans’ issues.
e. Co-ordinating with other departments and agencies on aspects of policy relating to veterans.
4. Advocacy on behalf of veterans is one of ONE’s core objectives and it is worth recalling the work done by many members of our organisation in seeking the establishment of an OVA.
5. The establishment of an OVA in Ireland was originally proposed by ONE in 2014 as part of the process that led to the development of the White Paper on Defence of August 2015. An embryonic Veterans’ Policy was included in that White Paper on Defence and while there was no reference to an OVA, there was a commitment therein to further develop the supports available to veterans.
6. ONE made a further comprehensive case on the necessity for an OVA and discussed it at a meeting with the Minister for Defence on 13 December 2017. It was subsequently raised at regular intervals at meetings with the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces.
7. ONE in partnership with the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers (ARCO) and the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) formulated a Combined Associations Veteran’s Strategy aimed at fulfilling the policy of further developing the supports available to veterans and presented it to the Minister for Defence on 12 December
2018. The strategy included the creation of an OVA.
8. ONE developed a Position Paper on Veterans Policy in September 2020 and defined Veterans’ Policy as a declaration of the Government’s political activities, plans and intentions relating to veterans of the Defence Forces. The Position Paper outlined three proposed areas for inclusion by Government in a Veterans’ Policy namely: the creation of an office of Veterans’ Affairs; the requirement for research to underpin the Veteran’s Policy; and the provision of policy imprimatur in the Veterans’ Policy for the essential work ONE undertakes on behalf of veterans.
9. ONE made a written submission on Veterans’ Policy to the Commission on the Defence Forces and followed this up with an oral presentation on 26 April 2021. ONE emphasised that the creation of an OVA is regarded as the key enabler in the development and implementation of Veterans’ Policy.
10. ONE, together with IUNVA, made a written and oral submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on 16 November 2021. The Cathaoirleach of the Committee Mr Charles Flanagan T.D. wrote to both An Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence on 17 December 2021 recommending the development of a “National Veterans’
Policy and an Office of Veterans’ Affairs.”
11. ONE acknowledges the excellent work of the other veterans’ organisations on this issue. We warmly welcome that “The Commission recommends the establishment on an Office of Veterans’ Affairs which would coordinate veteran support across government departments and local authorities, would enhance collaboration between recognised veterans’ associations, would provide transition support for retirees, and would provide much-needed advice, assistance and support to veterans and their families.”
12. We fully appreciate that much work remains to be done and that this is but one of many recommendations in the report of the Commission. However, we will earnestly pursue the enactment of the of the recommendation of the Commission to establish an Office of Veterans’ Affairs.
The Commission on the Defence Forces Report can be downloaded here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/eb4c0-report-of-the-commission-on-defence-forces/