The Irish Army
(Arm na hÉireann
) is the main branch of the Irish Defence Forces
(Óglaigh na hÉireann
). It was first formed in 1922 after the implementation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty
and the subsequent foundation of the Irish Free State
. It was originally formed from the pro-Treaty elements of the Irish Republican Army
(IRA), and its first task was to defend the new Free State from the anti-Treaty IRA
during the Irish Civil War
Roles of the Irish Army
The roles of the Irish Army as decided by the Irish Government are:
- To defend the State against armed aggression.
- To give aid to the civil power (ATCP).
- This means that the Irish Army will assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána, who have primary responsibility for law and order in Ireland.
- To participate in multinational peace support, crisis management and humanitarian relief operations in support of the United Nations.
- To carry out other duties which may be assigned to them from time to time.
- Assistance on the occasion of natural disasters, assistance in connection with the maintenance of essential services etc.
The beginning of the Irish Army
The Defence Forces, including the Army, trace their origins to the Irish Volunteers founded in 1913. This organisation was succeeded in 1919 by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the guerrilla organisation that fought the Anglo-Irish War against the government of the United Kingdom which is more popularly known as the War of Independence. Shortly after the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the IRA was officially succeeded by the modern Defence Forces. The Irish title Óglaigh na hÉireann, that had previously been used by both the Irish Volunteers and the IRA, was kept by the Defence Forces.
The Civil War Period
In the early weeks of the Irish Civil War
, the newly formed Irish Army, or "National Army", as it was called, was composed of pro-Treaty IRA units, especially the "Dublin Guard
", whose members had personal ties to Michael Collins.
Its size was estimated at about 7,000 men. However, the Free State soon recruited far more troops, the army's size mushrooming to 55,000 men and 3,500 officers by the end of the Civil War in May 1923. Many of its recruits were war-hardened Irishmen who had served in the former regiments of the 10th (Irish) Division and 16th (Irish) Division of the New British Army in the First World War. Six Irish regiments territorially associated with the new state, included the Royal Irish Regiment (1684-1922),the The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, the Royal Munster Fusiliers the Connaught Rangers, the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment, the 5th Royal Irish Lancers were all disbanded in July 1922 under the terms of the Treaty. Indeed, the Free State recruited experienced soldiers from wherever it could. Two of its senior generals in the Civil War had served in the United States Army - John T. Prout and "Ginger" O'Connell.
The British government supplied the new army with uniforms, small arms, ammunition, artillery and armoured units, which enabled it to bring the Civil War to a relatively speedy conclusion. Dublin was taken from Anti Treaty IRA units (or "Irregulars") after a week and a half of street fighting in July 1922. The Irregulars were also dislodged from Limerick and Waterford in that month and Cork and county Kerry were secured after seaborne landings in August. The remainder of the war was a counter-insurgency campaign against Anti-Treaty guerrillas. Irish Army units, especially the Dublin Guard, were implicated in a series of atrocities against captured Anti-Treaty fighters. The National Army suffered about 800 fatalities in the Civil War, including its commander in chief, Michael Collins. Collins was succeeded by Richard Mulcahy.
After the Civil War
Following the Irish Civil War, the Irish Army had grown too big for a peacetime role and was too expensive for the new Irish state to maintain. In addition, many of the civil war recruits were badly trained and undisciplined -making them unsuitable material for a full time professional army.
Richard Mulcahy, the new Irish Defence Minister, had to reduce the army to about 20,000 men in the immediate post Civil War period. This nearly provoked a mutiny among Irish Army officers in 1923-24, particularly among former IRA officers, who perceived that former British Army officers were treated better than them. The "mutiny" petered out however and the Irish Army has never since challenged the civil power in Ireland.
The Emergency Period
Ireland remained neutral for the Second World War
, which was referred to as "The Emergency
" by the Irish government.
However despite the Irish neutral stance the Irish Army was greatly expanded during the war. In fact the Irish Army grew from about 10,000 men up to about 40,000 by the end of the war (with more recruited to reserve forces). By early 1941, this comprised an all-volunteer force of two infantry divisions and two independent brigade, as well as coastal artillery and garrison units. This expansion was enforced in order to ward off potential invasions from either the Allied or Axis powers (Both of whom had actually drawn up contingency plans to invade Ireland).
In 1939, the remnants of the IRA stole a large quantity of the Irish Army's reserve ammunition from its dump at the Magazine Fort in Dublin's Phoenix Park. While this was seen as an embarrassment for the Irish Army, most of it was recovered.
Moreover, as the War went on, more and newer equipment was purchased from Britain and the United States. For the duration of the war, Ireland, while formally neutral, tacitly supported the Allies in several ways. German military personnel were interned in the Curragh along with the belligerent powers' servicemen, whereas Allied airmen and sailors who crashed in Ireland were very often repatriated, usually by secretly moving them across the border to Northern Ireland.
G2, the Irish Army's intelligence section, played a vital role in the detection and arrest of German spies, such as Hermann Görtz. From 1942 G2 was headed by Colonel Dan Bryan.
United Nations Missions
Since joining the United Nations
in 1955, the Irish Army has been deployed on many peacekeeping
missions. The first of these missions took place in 1958, when a small number of observers were sent to Lebanon
. A total of 86 Irish soldiers have died in the service of the United Nations since 1960.
The first major overseas deployment came in 1960, when Irish troops were sent to the Congo
as part of the UN force ONUC
. The Belgian Congo became an independent Republic on 30 June 1960. Twelve days later, the Congolese government requested military assistance from the United Nations to maintain its territorial integrity. On the 28th July 1960 Lt-Col
Murt Buckley led the 32nd Irish Battalion to the newly independent central African
country. This was the most costly enterprise for the Irish Army since the Irish Civil War
, as 26 Irish soldiers lost their lives (9 died in one action, the Niemba
ambush). One of the largest engagements Irish troops were involved in was the Siege of Jadotville
, in which a small party of 150 Irish soldiers was attacked by a much larger force of Katangese
troops. The Irish fought back ferociously until their ammunition ran out, they took no casualties and inflicted heavy loses on their attackers. A total of 6,000 Irishmen served in the Congo from 1960 until 1964. A "Niemba Ambush commemoration" is hosted annually by the Irish Veterans Organisation the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen & Women (ONET)
in Cathal Brugha Barracks
, Dublin, on the nearest Saturday to the actual date of the ambush in the Congo.
Cyprus and the Sinai
Starting in 1964, Irish troops have served as UN peacekeepers in Cyprus
). Over 9,000 Irish personnel have served there to date, without suffering casualties.
In 1973, an infantry group and some logistical troops were pulled out of Cyprus at short notice to serve in the Sinai desert between Egypt and Israel as part of the UN force that supervised the ceasefire that ended the Yom Kippur War.
From 1976 to 1981, UNFICYP was commanded by an Irish officer, Major-General James Quinn.
From 1978 to 2001, a battalion
of Irish troops was deployed in southern Lebanon
, as part of the UN mandate force UNIFIL
. The Irish battalion consisted of 580 personnel which were rotated every six months, plus almost 100 others in UNIFIL headquarters and the Force Mobile Reserve. In all, 30,000 Irish soldiers served in Lebanon over 23 years.
The Irish troops in Lebanon were initially intended to supervise the withdrawal of the Israeli Defence Forces from the area after an invasion in 1978 and to prevent fighting between the Palestine Liberation Organization forces and those of Israel. Another Israeli invasion in 1982 forced the PLO out of southern Lebanon, and occupied the area. The following 18 years, up until 2000 saw prolonged guerrilla warfare between Israeli forces, their allies in the South Lebanon Army and Hezbollah. The Irish battalion, caught in the middle of the conflict, lost 47 soldiers killed and more wounded in the mission. Their role consisted of manning checkpoints and observations posts and mounting patrols. In addition to peacekeeping the Irish also provided humanitarian aid to the local population -for example aiding the orphanage at Tibnin. From 25 April 1995 to 9 May 1996, Brigadier General P. Redmond served as Deputy Force Commander of UNIFIL - a period that coincided with the Israeli Operation Grapes of Wrath offensive in 1996.
Most of the Irish force was withdrawn from the area in 2001, following the Israeli evacuation of their forces the previous year. However 11 Irish troops remained there as observers. They were present during the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese war. After this conflict UNIFIL was reinforced and a mechanised infantry company of 165 Irish troops was deployed to southern Lebanon as of October 2006. Their role there is to protect a Finnish engineering unit.
As of 31.st of October the 1.st Finn-Irish Battalion is to cease operations and be stood down from duty after having completed their mandate with UNIFIL.
From August 1988 until May 1991, Irish soldiers were deployed, under the UN force UNIIMOG
, on the border between Iraq
to supervise the withdrawal of both side's troops back to within their respective borders after the end of the Iran–Iraq War
. The total strength of the mission was 400, of which the Irish provided 177. The mission came to an end in 1991, when Iran and Iraq completed the withdrawal of their troops. A small number of Irish observers have also been stationed in Kuwait
since April 1991 as part of UNIKOM
Since the 1990s UN missions have proliferated for Irish troops. In 1993, 100 troops forming a transport company were deployed in Somalia
, as part of UNOSOM II
peace-enforcing mission. In December 2001, 221 Irish soldiers were sent to Eritrea
as part of UNMEE
, and were tasked with the defence of the UN headquarters there. Since 1996 a military police
unit and some other troops have been stationed in Bosnia
as part of SFOR
(1995-2005) and EUFOR
(December 2005 to present). From 1999 until the present Irish troops have been stationed in Kosovo
as part of KFOR
. Currently there are 208 Irish soldiers, part of an infantry group, there.
In 1999, Irish Officers were sent to East Timor
as part of the UNAMET
observer group (Timorese Independence Refurendum). Later in the year, a Platoon of Rangers were sent as part of the INTERFET
peacekeeping force. The Irish Army Rangers
(1 Ircon)(the Army's special forces
unit) were deployed in East Timor
alongside the Australian SAS
for a 4 month tour, INTERFET handed over to UNTAET
during 2 IRCON's tour in 2000. This marked the second time that the Irish Army's elite force were officially deployed operationally outside of the state, the first being to Somalia
in 1993. The third contingent to Timor (3 Ircon) marked a new departure for the Defence Forces , all the infantry sections where drawn from the 2nd Infantry Battalion , late 2000 saw the 12th Infantry supply 4 Ircon. Nine contingents in total were deployed including the 4 Infantry Battalion, 5 Infantry Battalion, 28 Infantry Battalion, 1 Cathlan Coisithe, and finally the 6 Infantry Battalion under UNMISET.
After November 2003, Irish troops were stationed in Liberia as part of UNMIL. The Liberian mission was the largest Irish overseas deployment since Lebanon and consisted of a single composite battalion. The UN force, UNMIL, was 15,000 strong and was charged with stabilising the country after the Liberian Civil War. The Irish troops were based in Camp Clara, near Monrovia and were tasked with acting as the Force Commander's "Quick Reaction Force" (QRF) in the Monrovia area. This means the securing of key locations, conducting searches for illegally held weapons, patrolling and manning checkpoints on the main roads and providing security to civilians under threat of violence. The Irish deployment to Liberia was due to end in November 2006. However, at that time the deployment was extended for a further 6 months to May 2007 .
- 90th Infantry Battalion (4 Western Brigade) - Nov 03-May 04
- 91st Infantry Battalion (2 Eastern Brigade) - May 04-Nov 04
- 92nd Infantry Battalion (1 Southern Brigade) - Nov 04-May 05
- 93rd Infantry Battalion (4 Western Brigade) - May 05-Nov 05
- 94th Infantry Battalion (2 Eastern Brigade) - Nov 05-May 06
- 95th Infantry Battalion (1 Southern Brigade) - May 06-Nov 06
- 96th Infantry Battalion (4 Western Brigade) - Nov 06-May 07
Darfur and Chad
In August of 2007, The Irish Government announced that they would send over 200 Irish soldiers to help out with the United Nations effort as part of EUFOR Chad/CAR. As of 2008 they have deployed about 450 troops 50 of which are Irish Army Rangers, behind France, Ireland has deployed the most soldiers (In EUFOR Chad/CAR) to help out in Chad and Darfur. The Irish Soldiers have participated in the facilitate delivery of Humanitarian Aid, Protection of Civilians, and Ensured the Safety of UN Personnel.
Border duties and aid to the civil power 1969-present
At home, the Army has been occasionally deployed as a back up to the Gardaí
(Irish Police) along the border with Northern Ireland
during the conflict in the north known as the Troubles
(1969-1998). In the early 1970s, it was suggested that the Irish Army might cross the Border to protect the nationalist
community within Northern Ireland
. However this was never acted upon, although units were moved to the Border in 1969-70, in readiness for such a step. In addition, a captain in the army, James Kelly
was sent to buy arms for Republican paramilitaries for the defence of nationalist areas in the North. When this emerged in public, it caused a scandal known as the Arms crisis
. Kelly, however always maintained that he was only acting under orders from senior politicians.
The Army's most consistent role has been to try and impede the movement of Provisional IRA members across the border during its armed campaign. One Irish Army soldier was killed during the Troubles by the PIRA. This happened on December 16, 1983, when the PIRA kidnapped a supermarket executive named Don Tidey. He was traced to Ballinamore in County Leitrim and in the subsequent shootout, a trainee Garda and an Irish Army soldier were killed. Recently, in 2006, the Army has been used to back up the Gardaí in arresting and seizing the assets of smugglers along the border, many of whom have links with Republican paramilitaries.
A by product of the troubles has been the assignment of Irish soldiers to so called "cash in transit" patrols. Large shipments of cash within the republic are provided with armed military escorts. The purpose is not a police function per se e.g. to prevent theft by criminal elements but is specifically to pre-empt paramilitaries from obtaining funds for more weapons.
- Kosovo (KFOR) - 35th Infantry Group
- Bosnia (EUFOR Althea) - MNTF (Finland)
- Lebanon (UNIFIL) - 36th Infantry Group 1.st Finn/Irish battalion
- Chad (EUFOR Chad/CAR) - Ranger expeditionary force
Irish Army Officers are currently serving in Liberia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Western Sahara, Congo, Croatia, Montenegro, Afghanistan and the Ivory Coast.
All enlisted members of the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF) undergo 16 weeks of basic training, after which they become a Private 2 Star. They then undergo a further 12 weeks of advanced training with their corps, after which they are upgraded to Private 3 Star, Trooper or Gunner depending on their respective Corps.
The regular army of Ireland
has 8,500 personnel (plus a reserve army of 13,000), and consists of a single division sized element made up of three infantry
brigades, each responsible for a geographical area of the country:
1 Southern Brigade
- HQ 1 Southern Brigade
- 3rd Infantry Battalion
- 4th Infantry Battalion
- 12th Infantry Battalion
- 1 Field Artillery Regiment
- 1 Cavalry Squadron
- 1 Field Engineer Company
- 1 Field CIS Company
- 1 Brigade Military Police Company
- 1 Logistics Support Battalion
- 1 Brigade Training Centre
2 Eastern Brigade
- HQ 2 Eastern Brigade
- 2nd Infantry Battalion
- 5th Infantry Battalion
- 27th Infantry Battalion
- 2 Field Artillery Regiment
- 2 Cavalry Squadron
- 2 Field Engineer Company
- 2 Field CIS Company
- 2 Brigade MP Company
- 2 Logistics Support Battalion
- 2 Brigade Training Centre
4 Western Brigade
- HQ 4 Eastern Brigade
- 1st Infantry Battalion
- 6th Infantry Battalion
- 28th Infantry Battalion
- 4 Field Artillery Regiment
- 4 Cavalry Squadron
- 4 Field Engineer Company
- 4 Field CIS Company
- 4 Brigade MP Company
- 4 Logistics Support Battalion
- 4 Brigade Training Centre
Defence Forces Training Centre
In addition to the three brigades in the Irish Army, there is also the Defence Forces Training Centre (DFTC). This element is responsible for providing professional training to the Irish Army through three separate colleges:
- Military College
- Combat Support College (Cavalry/Engineering/Signal Schools)
- Combat Service Support College (Transport/Ordnance/Military Police/Medical/Admin/Catering (in Dublin) & Physical Fitness Schools)
There are also several units located at the DFTC that are not part of the brigade structure:
- Operational Units
- Support Units
- Supply and Services Unit
- Defence Force Logistics Base
- DFTC Military Police Company
The operational units fall under the direct command of the Defence Force HQ, and may be deployed either in support of brigade units or seperately on any operation.
The Infantry corps represent the largest component and are the operational troops of the Irish Army.
Corps provides fire support as required by infantry or armoured elements. The Corps was founded in 1924 and today consists of two main branches: Field Artillery
and Air Defence. Between them, the two branches of the Corps provide several vital services;
- Fire support of Infantry or Armoured troops.
- Ground to low level air defence.
- Light field battery support to Irish overseas battalion.
- Aid to the civil power duties.
Each brigade has a single regular field artillery regiment, supported by a reserve field artillery regiment, while the army's single air defence regiment is based at the Defence Force Training Centre, with batteries stationed around the country.
The Cavalry Corps (In Irish an Cor Marcra) is the army's armoured formation.
The Engineer Corps (or An Cór Innealtoiri in Irish) is the combat engineering unit of the Irish Defence Forces. The Engineer Corps is responsible for all military engineering matters within the Defence Forces. Engineering originated as a military function, and in today's army an Engineer has a most demanding role.
The responsibility for the procurement and maintenance of all ordnance equipment is vested in the Ordnance Corps and encompasses a spectrum of equipment ranging from anti-aircraft missiles and naval armament to the uniforms worn by military personnel. The corps is also responsible for the procurement of food and provision of commercial catering services. These tasks are of a technical nature and the corps personnel are appropriately qualified and with the expertise to afford technical evaluation of complete weapon systems, it also includes embracing weapons, ammunition, fire control instruments and night vision equipment. The Ordnance Corps provide the only Explosive Ordnance Disposal service within the state, in support of the Garda Siochana. The Corps must keep abreast of current developments in international terrorist devices and the equipment needed to counteract these devices. Courses are conducted for its own personnel and for students from the military and police of many other nations. Ordnance Corps personnel continue to serve in overseas missions and are an essential component of missions involving troops.
The Transport Corps is responsible for the procurement, management and maintenance of all soft skinned vehicles, and the maintenance of all armoured vehicles within the Defence Forces. It is also responsible for the driver training, testing, certification, maintenance of driving standards and provision of vehicle fuels, oils and lubricants. The Transport Corps provides heavy lift capability for the Defence Forces.
The Army Medical Corps has the responsibility of maintaining health and preventing disease in the Defence Forces and providing treatment of its sick and wounded. While these functions are of prime importance in time of war they also continue in peacetime. The Corps provides Dental as well as medical care for all personnel. The service provided includes surgery, physiotherapy and nursing. Their personnel have served in all the major UN missions providing medical and dental support. They also fill an important role in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the local civilian population giving medical aid in circumstances in which local medical services are unlikely to function adequately.
Military Police Corps
The Military Police (Irish: Poilini Airm
) are responsible for the prevention and investigation of offences, the enforcement of discipline and the general policing of the Defence Forces. In wartime, additional tasks include the provision of a traffic control organisation to allow rapid movement of military formations to their mission areas. Other wartime rules include control of prisoners of war and refugees. Traditionally, the Military Police have also had a considerable involvement at state and ceremonial occasions. In recent years the Military Police have been deployed in many UN missions (e.g. Iran /Iraq) and later in the former Yugoslavia (SFOR). They enjoy a very close working relationship with An Garda Síochána at national and local levels. The Gardaí assist in providing specialist police training to the Military Police in the field of crime investigation. Also known as the PAs in Irish Army slang (Poilini Airm).
The CIS corps is a support corps responsible for installing, maintaining and operating telecommunications equipment and information systems.
The rank structure of the Irish Army is organised along standard military rank and command structures. These consist of the following ranks:
- 2* Private
- 3* Private (Infantry Corps & other elements of the PDF)
- 3* Trooper (Specific to the Cavalry corps)
- 3* Gunner (Specific to the Artillery corps)
- Company/Battery Quartermaster Sergeant
- Company/Battery Sergeant
- Battalion/Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
- Battalion/Regimental Sergeant Major
- Second Lieutenant
- Lieutenant Colonel
- Brigadier General
- Major General
- Lieutenant General
Note: As there are only Infantry Brigades the number of senior officers in the Irish Army is small.
The Irish Army has historically purchased and used weapons and equipment from other western countries, mainly from European nations and especially from Britain. Generally all equipment is of NATO standard design. Ireland usually doesn't produce its own armaments and has a very limited arms industry (almost non-existent).
In the beginning, the Army used the British Lee-Enfield Rifle, which would be the mainstay for many decades after independence. In the 1960s some modernisation came with the introduction of the Belgian-made FN FAL 7.62 mm assault rifle.
Currently the standard weapon for an Irish Army soldier is the Austrian made Steyr AUG 5.56 mm assault rifle (also used in the other branches of the Defence force). The Steyr began to replace the older FAL in 1988, although some of the Reserve forces continued to use the FAL until 2002.
Other weapons in use by the Irish Army are the FN MAG, known as the "General Purpose Machine Gun" (GPMG), the FGM-148 Javelin Anti-tank guided missile (replacing the MILAN).
The Irish Army has historically preferred Light vehicles to the heavy armour types used by other European nations, and this preference continues today. The most recent purchase was of a large number of the Swiss made Mowag Piranha Armoured fighting vehicles, which have become the Army's primary vehicle in the Mechanized infantry role. Most of these are equipped with 12.7 mm HMGs, but recently the army has ordered an additional number of Piranhas with a mix of weapons systems, indluding the Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace "remote weapon station" with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun and Oto Melara 30 mm Autocannon equipped vehicles.
The Irish Army's only tank type vehicle is the British made FV101 Scorpion light tank, with a 76.2 mm main gun. Other vehicles include the Panhard AML (with 90 mm gun).