Today in the Seanad, I introduced my Defence (Veterans Lapel Badge) Bill 2017. This Bill provides for the establishment of a Veterans Lapel Badge to be conferred upon former members of the Army, Air Corps, Naval Service and Reserve Defence Forces by the Minister for Defence. The purpose of the Veterans Lapel Badge is to raise the profile of our Defence Force Veterans who have served their country with bravery and loyalty either at home or abroad or both.
I believe that the awarding of the Veterans Lapel Badge by the Minister for Defence would be a very appropriate recognition of the selfless and dedicated contribution of Defence Force members in the protection of the State and for their participation in multinational peace keeping and humanitarian aid missions to support the United Nations.
It would acknowledge the dedication and commitment of Defence Force members in providing fisheries protection, search and rescue services, air ambulances and assistance with natural disasters.
The awarding of a Veterans Badge will also visibly recognise the work of our Defence Forces in assisting the Civil Powers such as An Garda Siochana in protecting the internal security of the State.
During active service many defence force members are decorated with Military medals. These are bestowed in recognition of specific acts or service which can vary in significance from routine duty to bravery and valour. These are naturally highly valued and well earned.
What I proposed today to the Minister is not a medal but a simple badge or pin which can be worn by everyone who has completed active service regardless of whether they ever received a medal or not.
Ireland is unusual in that we do not have a veterans badge or a veterans day. In other countries this is commonplace and I believe that both a badge and a special official national veterans day would be welcomed not just by the veterans and their families but by the public in general. Today I hoped to get this process underway with the badge as a first step.
We know that the principal of military neutrality remains a core element of Irish Foreign Policy and the numbers in our Defence Forces are small compared to other countries. But the dedication and loyalty of the women and men who have served is no less valuable than those from our larger non-neutral European neighbours.
Their contribution equally deserves formal recognition and not just during active service but upon retirement.
As a former solider myself, I am very aware of the sense of unity, commonality and esprit de corps shared by Defence Forces Veterans and know how good it would feel to immediately recognise another veteran by their lapel badge. When I am travelling abroad I often recognise veterans from other jurisdictions by their lapel badges. In fact those displaying Veterans lapel badges or carrying veterans’ recognition cards are often offered discounts on services and goods as a token of thanks for the service they have given. To have served one’s country is a great honour and something which veterans take very seriously and it behoves us all to do the same.
In putting this Bill before the house I also commended the organisations that support veterans in very practical and often lifesaving ways. In particular I also acknowledged the work of Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann" ONE which ensures the welfare of ex-service personnel by providing accommodation to homeless, elderly or disabled members in need. They also offer support at several locations throughout the country and we are all familiar with the fundraising Fuchsia Badge and the annual appeal. I also paid tribute to the Irish United Nations Veterans Association which provides support for our soldiers, Gardaí and civilian personnel who serve in often dangerous and difficult circumstances. I also acknowledged and praised the many unit associations who play a massive role in supporting veterans from their units around the country. Defence forces member’s values of selflessness, respect, integrity, moral and physical courage and loyalty do not disappear at the end of their service period. Such values having been deeply instilled and integrated into the characters of our soldiers and sailors remain with them as they continue their journey in civilian life. These men and women not only make excellent service people, they make exemplary citizens and I believe that they should be recognised for their commitment to the State however short or however long.
I thanked the Minister, Paul Keogh and our former Taoiseach deputy Enda Kenny for officially recognising the bravery and valour of the men of A Coy who fought so heroically at the battle of Jadotville and who will be finally recognised in a medals ceremony in Athlone on December 2nd.
November 22nd 2017