Great grandson of Cathal Brugha awarded centenary medal

President Higgins presents members of Defence Forces with commemorative medals

The great grandson of 1916 revolutionary Cathal Brugha was among members of the Defence Forces to be presented with centenary commemorative medals by President Michael D Higgins on Sunday.

Air Corp captain Gearóid O'Briain stood alongside five men and two women from the Air Corp, Navy, Reserve Forces and Army, chosen to represent their comrades, at a ceremony in Dublin Castle.

A weak winter sun, hidden behind the 10-pot chimney stack over the State apartments, failed to warm the castle’s upper courtyard where members of the Defence Forces, accompanied by the No1 Army Band, lined out shortly after 11.30am on Sunday.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Health Simon Harris took their places on the podium before the President and Sabina Higgins arrived.


The couple arrived in the lower yard where the President inspected the guard of honour. After a rendition of Amhran na Bhfiann, flanked by officers, the couple made their way to the upper yard, past lines of Defence Forces, whose mirror-shine boots were perfectly aligned, thanks to earlier preparation involving a parade sergeant and a length of string.

Mr Higgins, in a black suit and green tie, told those present the event was a fitting acknowledgement for all members of Óglaigh na hÉireann who have served during this centenary year.

“It is also an opportunity to publicly acknowledge the dedicated and selfless service of the volunteer soldiers, sailors and aircrew of Óglaigh na hÉireann, who have served Ireland and the Irish people since the foundation of the State,” he said.

Peace keepers

He highlighted the international reputation of the Defence Forces as UN peace keepers and praised the work of the Naval Service in the Mediterranean “where literally thousands of lives have been saved”.

He also praised the role the Defence Forces in the centenary year celebrations and their professionalism.

“Today’s ceremony and the medal you are about to be presented with is a fitting and well-deserved tribute, on behalf of the people of Ireland, to you, the women and men of our Defence Forces,” he said.

Donning an overcoat, Mr Higgins presented commemorative medals to Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellet, and the seven members representing the Defence Forces, Pte Ciamh Dollard, CQMS Ken Smyth, Warrant Officer Martin Doran, Comdt Lar Joye, Capt Aine Gilmore, Pte Kevin Maher and Capt O Briain.

While the band played Danny Boy, the President, Tánaiste and the ministers simultaneously presented medals to the five rows of Defence Forces members lined out in the yard.

A short video was also shown, which included a clip of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who had originally been expected to attend the ceremony. He offered his “heartfelt thanks” to the Defence Forces.

Speaking afterwards, Capt O Briain, a flight instructor, said growing up, he was very aware of his great grandfather’s role, but in the last year he has taken a lot more pride in it. It was a real honour to represent the Air Corp at the event, he said.

The medal presentation formed part of an ongoing programme of State events to commemorative the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

The bronze medal itself, with its tricolour ribbon, was specially designed for the occasion, incorporating the original emblem of the Irish Volunteers, with the logo of the state centenary celebrations on the reverse.

It will be presented to all members of the Defence Forces who served over the last year.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist