STATEMENT FROM MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
I am delighted, as Minister for Defence, to have this opportunity to pay tribute to Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of your foundation.
There have been many changes throughout the past 70 years since the launch of ONE in the Mansion House in Dublin on Saturday 10th March 1951. The success of any organisation is vested in its ability to adapt and change in order to best meet the needs and requirements of its members. ONE has clearly demonstrated this capacity for change, and innovation, in pursuing the interests of retired members of our Defence Forces through support, comradeship, advocacy, and remembrance.
As Minister for Defence, I am acutely aware of the work of ONE to support the needs of veterans by the provision of accommodation in its veterans’ hostels and the provision of advice and support to veterans through its nationwide network of branches and veterans’ support centres. The advice and support you provide through these centres is invaluable. Since ONE opened its first Veterans’ Home in Brú na bhFiann, Queen Street, Dublin in 1994, the organisation has expanded its services and now operates three homes in Dublin, Letterkenny and Athlone, accommodating 49 veterans.
Looking to the future, I am pleased to say that my Department is supporting ONE to develop a 5-bedroom hostel in Cobh, Co. Cork. I also look forward to the development of a further 6-bedroom facility in Cork City bringing to 60 the number of single rooms that can be provided. The fact that ONE has supported 900 veterans, provided 18,000 bed nights each year, and that 95% of those supported move on to permanent housing, is testament to the great work that you undertake and the longer term benefit to your members. My Department will continue to support ONE’s work through the provision of financial support, and through the commitment under the Programme for Government 2020 to support the establishment of additional centres for retired members of the Defence Forces.
Regrettably, as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, a number of events have been cancelled. Among them was last year’s Veterans’ Day. Having attended previous Veterans’ Days as Minister, I have seen at first hand the importance of such occasions, which are organised by the serving members of the Permanent Defence Force for the benefit of veterans. It provides an important opportunity for your service down through the years to be recognised and a chance for you to meet with comrades with whom you have served at home and overseas. I look forward to attending future Veterans’ Days and other remembrance commemorations when circumstances allow.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was delighted last year when Ireland won a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The opportunity to serve on the Council provides us with a vehicle to advance the cause of UN Peacekeeping. I have no doubt that a factor in our success in securing the seat, was our proud history of unbroken service on United Nations peacekeeping missions since 1958. Many ONE members have served overseas on these missions and it is fitting to acknowledge this and the personal sacrifices that you and your families have made in doing so.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet via Video Conference with your Chief Executive Officer, Ollie O’Connor, and the Chairperson of your Board of Directors, Colm Campbell, to discuss issues of concern to ONE members. I look forward to meeting them in person as soon as possible and working with them to progress veterans’ issues in the years ahead.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the ONE officials and staff in your headquarters, and branches, homes and veterans’ support centres and around the country for your dedication, commitment and hard work. You are members of an organisation of which you should be very proud and of which I am proud to be associated. It is fitting at the time of your 70th Anniversary for you to reflect on the achievements of the organisation to date and to plan for the future with great confidence.
Congratulations on your first 70 years and best of luck in the future!
Comhghairdeas agus beir bua!
Minister for Defence and Minister for Foreign Affairs