MONAGHAN ARMY MEMORIAL

Commemorative stone for DF members who served in Monaghan Barracks 1976-2009, designed by Marc Kelly, Emyvale. Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Commemorative stone for DF members who served in Monaghan Barracks 1976-2009, designed by Marc Kelly, Emyvale. Photo: © Michael Fisher

ARMY’S CONTRIBUTION TO MONAGHAN COMMEMORATED AT FORMER BARRACKS SITE

MICHAEL FISHER  The Northern Standard  Thursday March 26th p.

Blessing of commemorative stone by army chaplain Fr Bernard McKay Morrissey, CF Dundalk  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Blessing of commemorative stone by army chaplain Fr Bernard McKay Morrissey, CF Dundalk Photo: © Michael Fisher

The tricolour was lowered for the last time at Monaghan Army Barracks in January 2009 and the gates were closed as the Defence Forces moved out. It was one of four army posts put up for sale by the government. Most of the soldiers based there transferred to the Headquarters of the 27th Infantry Battalion at Aiken Barracks in Dundalk.

Former Sgt Dennis Barry (centre), Monaghan Barracks Association with colour party: Mick Donoghue IUNVA Post 15 Cavan (left) and Wally Barry ONE Tanagh Branch (right) Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Former Sgt Dennis Barry (centre), Monaghan Barracks Association with colour party: Mick Donoghue IUNVA Post 15 Cavan (left) and Wally Barry ONE Tanagh Branch (right) Photo: © Michael Fisher

It might have remained a derelict site for many years. But it has since been transformed into an Education Campus that includes a new Garage Theatre, as well as two schools and the Monaghan Institute. The complex which was developed by the Cavan Monaghan Education Board under its Chief Executive Martin O’Brien was officially opened last month by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Dennis Barry presents sculptor Marc Kelly with a DF crest to mark the occasion Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Organiser Dennis Barry presents sculptor Marc Kelly with a DF cap badge crest to mark the occasion Photo: © Michael Fisher

In order to remember the contribution of thousands of army personnel who passed through the post, a Monaghan Barracks Association was formed by a former Sergeant, Dennis Barry. A native of Clonmel in County Tipperary, he was stationed at the Armagh Road complex for many years. Their way of marking the contribution of the military and their colleagues from the Air Corps and Navy was to commission a stone from Emyvale sculptor Marc Kelly.

Piper Kevin Murphy, 27 Inf Bn Dundalk, who played a lament as the stone was unveiled Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Piper Kevin Murphy, 27 Inf Bn Dundalk, who played a lament as the stone was unveiled Photo: © Michael Fisher

Last Saturday (March 21st) former army colleagues including UN veterans joined serving members of the 27th Infantry Battalion and the Reserve, along with their families and friends, at the unveiling of the stone.

It was blessed by former Monaghan barracks chaplain, Fr Seán McDermott from Ballinagh, Co. Cavan, Canon Ian Berry, Rector of Monaghan, and Fr Bernard McCay-Morrissey, chaplain of the 27th Infantry Battalion in Dundalk.

Nathan Healy, Castleshane, unveiled the commemorative stone  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Nathan Healy, Castleshane, unveiled the commemorative stone Photo: © Michael Fisher

The honour of unveiling the stone was given to 10 year-old Nathan Healy from Cavancreevy, Castleshane. His father Private John Healy of the 27th Infantry Battalion came from Dublin and joined the army when he was 19. Private Healy died in October and was given military honours at his funeral in Monaghan.

Flags on the stage during the Mass Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Flags on the stage during the Mass Photo: © Michael Fisher

The memorial stone is dedicated to all members of the Defence Forces who served on the site 1976-2009.

Army Chaplain Fr Bernard McKay Morrissey, CF Dundalk celebrated Mass at the Garage Theatre, Monaghan  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Army Chaplain Fr Bernard McKay Morrissey, CF Dundalk celebrated Mass at the Garage Theatre, Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

At the start of the commemoration, a Mass was held in the Garage Theatre, celebrated by Fr McCay-Morrissey. He said when the announcement of the closure of the barracks came, it was unexpected. It was a time of anxiety and uncertainty for those affected. But good things had eventually emerged from it, although some were still adapting to the move to Dundalk. Prayers were said for all those who had worked in the barracks, the NCOs and officers and the staff.

Reflection during Mass by John Wilson, remembering all who had been stationed at Monaghan Barracks Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Reflection during Mass by John Wilson, remembering all who had been stationed at Monaghan Barracks Photo: © Michael Fisher

Fr Seán McDermott was chaplain when the barracks closure was announced and recalls that he was with some members of the unit serving overseas at the time.

Colour Party escorting the tricolour Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Colour Party escorting the tricolour Photo: © Michael Fisher

The decision to construct a barracks in Monaghan was made in November 1973 and the complex was opened in December 1976 by then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave at the height of the troubles in the North. The soldiers who were then part of the 29th Infantry Battalion operated border patrols and served in aid of the civil power (Gardaí). They often found themselves called out to monitor unnapproved border crossings where local residents were filling in craters that had been caused by the British Army. The troops also supported the Department of Agriculture during the foot and mouth, BSE and poultry disease crises.

Not many local people signed up for military service initially, but as the years went by, more recruits came from the Monaghan area. Soldiers of the 27th Infantry Battalion have served in numerous peacekeeping missions around the world, most notably in Lebanon.

Colour party marches off at end of unveiling and blessing Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Colour party marches off at end of unveiling and blessing Photo: © Michael Fisher

UN veterans were among those who paraded from the Garage theatre to the site of the memorial stone in what was once the transport yard of the barracks.

Parade from Garage Theatre to memorial stone in former transport yard Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Parade from Garage Theatre to memorial stone in former transport yard Photo: © Michael Fisher

Following the ceremony, refreshments were served in the school canteen and young Nathan Healy from Castleshane was given the task of cutting the special cake that had been made for the occasion.

Nathan Healy, Castleshane, cuts the Monaghan Barracks Association cake Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Nathan Healy, Castleshane, cuts the Monaghan Barracks Association cake Photo: © Michael Fisher

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DEFENCE CO-OPERATION IRELAND & UK

Michael Fallon M.P., British Defence Secretary and Irish Defence Minister Simon Coveney T.D. sign the memorandum  Photo:  Department of Defence

Michael Fallon M.P., British Defence Secretary and Irish Defence Minister Simon Coveney T.D. sign the memorandum Photo: Department of Defence

Irish Defence Minister Simon Coveney T.D. welcomed the British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon M.P. to Dublin Castle where they signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Defence, Ireland and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence on enhancement on certain aspects of Security and Defence Cooperation. The visit marked a historic moment for both countries, with Mr Fallon, being the first UK Defence Minister ever to make an official visit to Ireland.

The signing of the Memorandum represents a major step forward in the process of formalising the already broad and strong relationship the the two countries have. recognising their shared interests, values and responsibilities. It will provide both the d Ireland and the UK with a means for developing and furthering their already excellent defence and security relations and will help to enhance cooperation in exercises, training as well as peacekeeping and crisis management operations.

Examples of the UK and Irish Armed Forces already working together include peacekeeping missions in Mali during 2013, and more recently, alongside each other in Sierra Leone, where the United Kingdom is leading international efforts to halt the spread of the Ebola Virus.

Mr Coveney said “the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding places existing cooperation arrangements in the Defence area between Ireland and the UK on a more formal and enduring footing.  The Memorandum of Understanding is a voluntary, non-binding arrangement between the Department of Defence and the UK Ministry of Defence and does not affect or prejudice the position, policy or security arrangements of either country”. 

The drafting of the Memorandum arose from the initiative for increased co-operation across all areas of Government in the East-West relationship between Ireland and the UK which is led by the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister at Head of Government level. The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding will be followed by the drafting of a three-year Action Plan that will contain the detailed programme of bilateral co-operation activities for the forthcoming year and set the objectives for the succeeding two years. This may include military forces training, exercises and education, joint procurement and general sharing on reform in defence services.

The Minister went on to say that, “the Memorandum of Understanding and the associated Work Programme will also support the development of a greater mutual understanding of the policy considerations underlying our respective actions and engagement in multilateral arrangements for collective security such as the UN. It provides opportunities for more joint and collaborative work in support of international peace and security. It will also enhance the potential for further joint contributions to UN peacekeeping operations”.

British Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, said he welcomed the opportunity to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with Ireland. He said it very much reaffirmed the British government’s resolve to build on and strengthen the existing strong links between the Armed Forces of Ireland and the UK. Looking to the future, this agreement will importantly help us both to improve our defence and security cooperation, including conflict prevention and crisis management, he said.

Irish & British soldiers taking part in WW1 Centenary commemoration at Glasnevin cemetery, August 2014  Photo:   © Michael Fisher

Irish & British soldiers taking part in WW1 Centenary commemoration at Glasnevin cemetery, August 2014 Photo: © Michael Fisher

PRESIDENT HIGGINS’ CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins has issued his Christmas and New Year message. He refers to the improving relations between Ireland and the UK, strengthened by his state visit to Britain earlier this year, the first such official engagement by an Irish President. He also thanks members of the emergency services, the Garda Síochána, and members of Óglaigh na hÉireann. some of whom are on overeas duty. His message which has been recorded for broadcasting is as follows:-

“Christmas is a season of joy and warmth. It is a special time of the year, when so many of us come together with family and friends in a spirit of sharing and celebration. It is an opportunity to revive hope and anticipation, which can encourage us, including those who may be feeling distressed or lonely, to look beyond the long dark nights, to the promise once again, of the dawning light of Spring.

The story of Bethlehem, of the homeless Joseph and Mary anticipating the birth of their child, is at the heart of this holiday and it invites us to reflect on how we relate to the stranger, the vulnerable in our midst. At Christmas we are reminded, not only of how a man and a woman had to leave their familiar surroundings and have their child in a strange place, of how they were joined by unknown shepherds and visitors from faraway lands, but most importantly, of the empowering ethic of hospitality.

I completed, last month, a three-week visit to Africa, where I witnessed first-hand the impressive solidarity of countries such as Ethiopia in responding to the predicament of so many men, women and children from neighbouring countries who were forced to leave behind their homes, communities and livelihoods to seek refuge in their neighbour’s territory. Such willingness to offer shelter to those fleeing persecution or hunger is an issue that should involve us all, and not just the countries first affected.

Christmas is a season of peace, a time to recall all that can be achieved through reflection, forgiveness and reconciliation. Earlier this year, I had the great honour of being Ireland’s first Head of State to pay a State Visit to our nearest neighbour in every sense, the United Kingdom. It was an immense privilege and pleasure to be thus able to manifest the friendship between our two peoples, who no longer “look at each other with doubtful eyes”, but, rather, with the trustful eyes of mutual respect and shared commitments.

As a New Year approaches, and we continue our lives together, may I offer our appreciation to all who make that possible. I know that a commitment to the service of our citizens is shared by all those with a public service mission. May I, on behalf of the Irish people, thank in particular those who are caring for our communities during the holiday season – including the staff in our hospitals and emergency services, An Garda Síochána, and members of our Defence Forces who are supporting peace abroad.

My wish is that 2015 will bring our people a bounty of opportunities for flourishing and renewal. May the caring spirit that infuses these precious few days spent in the company of those we love extend to all and well beyond the Christmas holiday, into the year ahead. Sabina and I wish each and every one of you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.”

The English video of his address can be found here.

IRISH ARMY BANDS HISTORY

Defence Forces Concert Photo: © Michael Fisher

Defence Forces Concert Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Defence Forces annual benefit concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin with members of the combined army bands marked the 90th anniversary of the Army School of Music. The programme contained some fascinating articles and photos about the history of music in the Irish army, including the appointment in March 1923 of two senior German army officers who were musicians to lead the new school once the Irish Free State was established.

Pipes & Drums at the Concert Photo: © Michael Fisher

Pipes & Drums at the Concert Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Director of the DF School of Music Lt Col Mark Armstrong writes about his predecessor, the first director, Colonel Fritz Brase, who had been a very highly regarded German bandmaster. He led the school until his death in 1940. Brase brought with him another talented musician, Captain Friedrich Christian Sauerzweig. The first public performance by the new army band was on October 14th 1923, exactly ninety years ago, at the Theatre Royal in Dublin.

Celine Byrne and Lt Col Mark Armstrong are applauded  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Celine Byrne and Lt Col Mark Armstrong are applauded Photo: © Michael Fisher

In 1922 when the state was founded General Risteard Mulcahy was the first Minister for Defence. To advise on the formation of an Irish military music school, he appointed Dr John F.Larchet, who was then Professor of Music at University College Dublin.

Therein lies another connection with the past. The National Concert Hall in Earlsfort Terrace was for many years the main building for UCD. Indeed I remember doing first year Arts exams in the Aula Maxima, which has now been transformed into an international concert hall and provided the splendid setting for Saturday night’s concert.

IRISH ARMY BANDS

DF School of Music Crest Photo: © Michael Fisher

DF School of Music Crest Photo: © Michael Fisher

Wonderful Defence Forces benefit concert with combined army bands & soprano Celine Byrne at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Saturday night. Lt Col Mark Armstrong was the conductor. Members of the pipe bands also played. President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were the guests of honour.

DF Concert Programme

DF Concert Programme

LOURDES RETURN

Defence Forces members on International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes

Defence Forces members & Minister of State Paul Kehoe TD on International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes

The 300-strong Irish contingent that took part in the 55th international military pilgrimage to Lourdes returned to Dublin this afternoon, having travelled on Wednesday to the famous shrine of Our Lady in the Pyrenees in southern France. Over 25,000 military personnel and their families and friends participated in the 2013 Pilgrimage. Since 1958, the shrine has seen soldiers from all over the world come in peace to venerate Mary. The tradition of the International Military Pilgrimage (IMP) began in 1958, after what was initially a regional then national pilgrimage was made international to recognise officially the many soldiers that had been arriving. The only glitch was a baggage handling delay at Lourdes-Tarbes airport, which meant that the departure of the two Dublin flights was two hours later than expected.

Air Corps cadets & chaplain Fr Gerry Carroll

Air Corps cadets & chaplain Fr Gerry Carroll

Along the way we met groups including young helpers from Ossory (Co.Kilkenny) and Raphoe (Co.Donegal) taking part in their diocesan pilgrimages. From England, there were groups from Middlesborough (staying in our hotel), Birmingham and Plymouth dioceses (staying in the hotel next door, where the UK contingent from the Royal Navy, RAF and British Army were based). The young people were a credit to their respective groups and in the case of the Defence Forces, the cadets from the 89th class at the Curragh Training Centre along with the Navy cadets from Haulbowline and Air Corps cadets from Baldonnell represented Ireland with distinction, along with the DF pipe band, who never seemed to go to bed and a group from the Civil Defence

Parading the Colours: Ireland with UK and Hungary

Parading the Colours: Ireland (Navy) with UK (RMAS) and Hungary

BELVEDERE HOUSE

Belvedere House MullingarSitting on the shore of Lough Ennell near Mullingar in County Westmeath you will find an example of  an Irish country house, now in the care of the local County Council. It was built in 1740 as a hunting lodge for Robert Rochfort, 1st Earl of Belvedere by architect Richard Castle, one of Ireland’s foremost Palladian architects.

Belvedere House, although not very large, is architecturally significant because of its Diocletian windows and dramatic nineteenth-century terracing. When Robert Rochfort decided to use Belvedere as his principal residence he employed Barthelemij Cramillion, the French Stuccadore, to execute the Rococo plasterwork ceilings which are among the most exquisite in the country (Wikipedia).

"Jealous Wall" Folly

“Jealous Wall” Folly

The landscaped demesne of 160 acres boasts the largest and most spectacular folly in Ireland, called the The Jealous Wall. It was built by Robert Rochfort to block off the view of his estranged brother’s house nearby. There is also a Victorian walled garden and many hectares of forest. The house has been fully restored and the grounds are well maintained, attracting some 160,000 visitors annually.

Stucco Ceiling, Belvedere House

Stucco Ceiling, Belvedere House

Drawing Room overlooking lake

Drawing Room overlooking lake

On arrival at the car park and on the walk down towards the courtyard café, I noticed a recent addition to the landscape, donated by the Defence Forces. A 25pdr Field Gun from 4th Field Artillery Regiment, which used to be based in Mullingar. As the highest decorated regiment in the Defence Forces, the officers, NCOs, gunners and their families served the community of Mullingar and the people of Ireland at home and overseas from 17th February 1948 until 28th March 2012 when Columb Barracks closed. On 30th November 2012 the 4th Field Artillery Regiment were disbanded and became the 2 BDE Artillery Regiment (information on plaque).

Irish Army 25-pounder Gun

Irish Army 25-pounder Gun

Following the second world war Charles Howard-Bury, a soldier and mountaineer, restored the house and gardens. He never married and on his death in 1963 the estate was inherited by the actor Rex Beaumont. Rex had been Howard-Bury’s friend and companion for 30 years and he sold the estate to Westmeath County Council in 1982. The contents were auctioned by Christie’s in 1980. Following a multi-million pound restoration the house and gardens are now open to visitors.

Dining Room, Belvedere House

Dining Room, Belvedere House