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As 2020 draws to a close, Óglaigh na hÉireann has compiled an end of year summary of Defence Forces Security Operations and training activities throughout the year, both at home and overseas (most recent figures as at 20th December 2020).



The Defence Forces conducted a wide range of Defence & Security Operations in 2020. Our deployments (Other than COVID related activity) included Aid to Civil Power & Aid to the Civil Authority operations on a daily basis supporting An Garda Síochána, Local Authorities and other key agencies of the State. Some examples of these activities are:

  • The Army conducted over 133 Aid to the Civil Power Operations in support of An Garda Síochána involving Explosive Ordnance Disposal (Bomb Squad) call outs, Prisoner Escorts, Explosive Escorts, major Cash Escorts and Search Operations.
  • The Defence Forces deployed a Company of Troops with supporting elements on a Land Security Operation during the visit of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge in March.
  • Members of the Defence Forces continue to provide a permanent armed guard at Ireland’s only maximum-security prison, Portlaoise Prison, as well as the Central Bank, Irish Industrial Explosives and Government Buildings.
  • The Defence Forces contributed personnel and expertise supporting the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications’ National Cyber Security Centre.
  • Personnel were deployed throughout the year to assist civil authorities during multiple operations, including flood defence preparations and pump maintenance in Westmeath, Clare & Limerick.
  • So far this year, the Naval Service has conducted 307 fisheries boarding’s resulting in sixteen (16) detentions. The Naval Service patrols 220 million maritime acres of sea (over twelve times the land mass of Ireland) representing 15% of Europe’s fisheries. Fishing vessels from Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Belgium and Denmark were boarded and inspected in 2020.
  • The Naval Service Dive Section (NSDS) was deployed to 19 operations so far this year. Military Operations include underwater maintenance of the Naval Service Fleet, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle operations, and berth surveys/clearances for visiting ships. The Naval Service Dive Section has been involved in 3 separate Search and Recovery operations following requests from the Coast Guard and An Garda Síochána, many of these operations lasting several days. Two (2) deceased individuals have been recovered in the process of these searches this year and returned to their loved ones. They have also carried out a search on behalf of Customs & Excise, searching the hull of a suspect vessel entering an Irish port. The NSDS were involved in the high profile SAR of FV ALIZE where the capability to deploy an AUV proved its worth in locating the missing sunken vessel.
  • There have been fourteen (14) separate SAR responses from the NS this year, a number of them attracting media attention.
  • L.É NIAMH averted a potential ecological disaster by taking under tow a stricken crude oil tanker in the vicinity of Galway Bay.
  • L.É CIARA recovered a missing person 22NM West of Lambay Island.
  • Naval Service Ships were open to the public on five 5 different occasions prior to March 15.


The Air Corps conducts Maritime Defence and Security Operations in Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) through its Maritime Patrol Squadron which carries out aerial surveillance of territorial waters using two CASA CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft.
  • The Air Corps conducted in excess of 140 Maritime Surveillance Patrol flights in 2020.
  • The Air Corps completed more than *344 Emergency Aeromedical Services missions supporting the HSE in providing a medical service for seriously ill patients in isolated rural communities. 2020 also saw the 3000th patient airlifted by EAS.
  • The Air Corps provided 45 inter hospital Air Ambulance service support to the HSE in response to time critical medical emergencies. 36 these flights required patient delivery to UK or mainland Europe.
  • The Air Corps responded to several requests to provide aerial fire-fighting across five Counties dropping over 340,000 Litres of water to protect property in the ATCA role.
  • The Air Corps has conducted 10 COVID sample transport flights to Germany in direct support to the National response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
  • The Air Corps continues to support the Garda Air Support Unit flights in 2020.


The Irish Defence Forces has the longest unbroken record of overseas service with the United Nations of any country in the world since first deploying to a United Nations’ mission in 1958.

  • In 2020, Defence Forces personnel were deployed on United Nations, NATO PfP (Partnership for Peace), EU CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) and OSCE Peace Support and Crisis Management Operations across 14 missions in 13 countries. There are currently 581 Defence Forces personnel serving overseas.
  • The largest Defence Forces deployment overseas is with the United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), where 345 Irish soldiers currently serve. This includes an infantry battalion, who patrol along the Blue Line (line of demarcation between Leabanon and Israel) in the South in order to maintain a safe and secure environment. In November 2019, Ireland partnered with Poland on this mission, enhancing and developing our interoperability with Partner Nations. The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) also contribute nine personnel to IRISHPOLBATT.
  • The second largest deployment for the Defence Forces is with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, Syria, where 138 Irish soldiers currently serve. The Irish infantry group provides UNDOF’s Force Reserve Company which acts as the mission’s quick reaction force. Irish staff officers also serve in UNDOF HQ where Brigadier General Maureen O’Brien has held the appointment of Deputy Force Commander since September 2019.
  • The Defence Forces has a smaller number of soldiers deployed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) with an Army Ranger Wing (ARW) team with the German Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force in the east of the country. Also deployed to Mali are 20 Irish soldiers who serve with European Union Training Mission (EUTM) Mali, delivering education and training to the Malian Armed Forces.
  • The Defence Forces also has a number of soldiers deployed to missions such as EUFOR in Bosnia, KFOR in Kosovo, as well as staff officers and observers serving in Congo and Western Sahara.
  • The Defence Forces currently has three personnel (2 x Naval Service, 1 x Air Corps) deployed to the Operational HQ of the EU Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFORMED) Operation ‘Irini’ (Greek for ‘peace’) in Rome. The operation’s core task is the implementation of the UN arms embargo on Libya through the use of aerial, satellite, and maritime assets. One if its secondary tasks is to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks.
  • In August 2019, ten personnel deployed as part of the Force HQ Staff with the EU Battlegroup (EUBG) 2020 to Stadtallendorf, Germany. In January 2021, this commitment will come to an end.
  • Since joining the United Nations in 1955, Ireland has served on the Security Council on three occasions: 1962; 1981 – 1981; and 2001 – 2002. On 01 January 21, Ireland will begin its fourth term on the Security Council, playing a constructive role to help prevent conflicts and build peace around the world.
  • Funding from DPER through OPS2020 for the Air Corps VR System for Helo Winching. The Defence Forces were once again successful in winning a grant from the OPS 2020 Innovation fund. The grant of €50,000 went towards the procurement and installation of a virtual reality augmentation upgrade to the Helicopter Winching simulator in Casement Aerodrome. The project was successful in attracting the grant in part due to the possible inter agency collaboration opportunities of the innovation.
  • AB Wipes. In 2015 Aquila Bioscience led a consortium of collaborators, including the Defence Forces Ordnance Corps, in developing an Anti-Bio Agent Decontamination Wipe. The AB Wipe is revolutionary in that it is the only wipe that does not affect human skin and is a non-irritant due to its combination of naturally occurring materials and natural additives. The consortium concluded their work this year (2020) and have released a marketable product which is already in distribution. Aquila Bioscience is based in the heart of the medical device technology sector in Galway Ireland.
  • DIGISOFT Wearable Device. The Defence Forces has also been involved in the testing of re-adapted commercial off the shelf (COTS) technology normally found in amusement parks and cruise ships to offer a new approach to management of personal contacts and social distancing measures. The device itself is a simple wearable watch that uses Blue-Tooth connectivity to identify, measure and track interactions between wearers. This was done in collaboration with Irish company DIGISOFT.
  • Chief Of Staff Innovation Awards. This year’s Chief of Staff Innovation Awards was held virtually over social media and was timed to coincide with the OPS2020 Innovation Week. Participation in the Awards was significantly higher than last year with a number of projects developing innovative solutions for COVID-19 work place related issues. With the assistance of Enterprise Ireland and Butler Technologies on the adjudication process, a winner in individual and team category was selected. The winners were presented their trophies remotely by the COS over video call.
  • We train for what we can predict, and we educate for what we cannot. As our personnel are our greatest strength, we place a significant focus on training and education to ensure that we develop our personnel and prepare them for complex operating environments, domestically and overseas.
  • General Service Recruits – 385 general service inductions took place in 2020. There were also 20 Apprentices and 3 Naval Service specialists who completed Recruit Training.
  • 64 Cadets (4 Female) were inducted to the Defence Forces and began their military training in 2020. 6 of those cadets were serving members who joined from enlisted ranks.
  • 47 previously retired members have re-joined the Defence Forces across all ranks, corps and services during 2020.
  • 15 Army & NS Officers graduated with Bachelor degrees from a variety of universities as part of the third-level education scheme. 106 Officers were awarded academic qualifications through collaboration with Maynooth University on the Leadership, Management and Defence Studies programme (LMDS), 85 of these at Level 7 and 21 at Level 9. A further 9 NS Officers graduated from the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) with a Level 9 Certificate as part of their Senior Operations Command course of education.
  • 141 non-commissioned Officers graduated from academic programmes with the Institute of Technology Carlow, 21 with a Level 7 BA award, 43 with a Level 7 Minor Award and 77 with a Level 6 Higher Certificate Award in LMDS. 32 NS NCOs graduated from academic programmes with the NMCI, 21 with a Level 6 Certificate and 11 with a Level 7 BA award in LMDS.  24 enlisted personnel graduated through the Trainee Technician Scheme with Level 8 or National Craft Awards in Communications Systems and Electronic/Mechanical Engineering.
  • 875 Skill Courses were conducted by the Defence Forces in 2020 with 10,003 student days, developing and maintaining Defence Force capabilities.
  • 488 Defence forces personnel underwent 26 Career courses, developing their “leadership, planning and decision-making skills.”
  • In 2020 Óglaigh na hÉireann also launched The Defence Forces Third Action Plan for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 and Related Resolutions 2020-2024. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted on 31 October 2000 and formed the basis of the women, peace and security agenda. This resolution sought to address the disproportionate impact of conflict on women, but more pertinently, their critical role in conflict prevention, peace negotiations, peacebuilding and governance. Aligned with the objectives set out in UNSCR 1325 and successive related publications, the National Action Plan (NAP) commits Ireland to recognising and addressing the adverse effect of conflict on at risk populations. Furthermore, it pledges to prioritise gender equality in all aspects of international peace and security and conflict-affected contexts. The Defence Forces Third Action Plan for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 and Related Resolutions, serves to fulfil Defence Forces commitments contained within the national level plan, and progress the established organisational framework toward successful implementation of this landmark resolution. Full report available at!8H367W


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic a large number of ceremonies and state visits were either cancelled or significantly reduced.

  • The Defence Forces participated in almost 20 significant military and State ceremonial Events in 2020.
  • The Defence Forces participated in the annual State commemoration ceremonies, including the commemoration of the 104th anniversary of the Easter Rising at the GPO, O’Connell Street; the 1916 Leaders Commemoration at Arbour Hill and Áras an Uachtaráin and at the National Day of Commemoration at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin.
  • The Defence Forces participated in the National Famine Commemoration, held this year at The Delaney Famine Monument, St Stephen’s Green.
  • Ceremonial honours were afforded to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a wreath laying ceremony in The Garden of Remembrance during their official visit to Ireland in March.
  • State ceremonial honours were afforded on the occasion of the State Visit to Ireland of the President of Greece in January.
  • The Defence Forces participated in two ceremonies at Áras an Uachtaráin where a total of six (6) Ambassadors presented their Credentials of Office to Uachtaráin na hḖireann.
  • The Defence Forces took part in a special ceremony titled “Ireland Remembers” in The Garden of Remembrance in April to commemorate those that had lost their lives to COVID-19.
  • The Defence Forces Remembrance Ceremony was held at The National Memorial, Merrion Square in November to remember the eight (8) members of the Defence Forces who have lost their lives in the past 12 months. As part of this ceremony the Chief of Staff laid a wreath at The National Memorial.
  • The 60th Anniversary of The Niemba Ambush was marked by a wreath laying Ceremony on 07 November in Cathal Brugha Bks.
  • Throughout 2020, a variety of other ceremonial and support duties were performed across the country by members of the Defence Forces in support of State and other ceremonial events within relevant COVID-19 guidelines.



The Irish Defence Forces (DF) is an integral element of the Irish State’s architecture to deal with major emergencies. Through an existing framework, the DF provides support, when requested, to Irelands’ Primary Response Agencies (PRAs) such as the Health Service Executive (HSE), An Garda Síochana (AGS) and the Local Authorities. This support is broadly classified as either Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP), which is to An Garda Síochana; or Aid to Civil Authority (ATCA), to HSE or Local Authorities.

The Defence Forces established a COVID-19 Joint Operational Planning Group (JOPG) on 26 Feb 2020 and commenced the provision of support to the HSE on 13 Mar 2020.

On 18 Mar 20, in anticipation of an expected increase in ATCA operations, the General Staff raised the Defence Forces Alert Status to YELLOW. This caused the curtailment or cancellation of certain activities including non-essential training, all sports, all military competitions, travel and ceremonial taskings. As a result, the capability and capacity of the Defence Forces to respond to anticipated taskings was augmented.


On 23 Mar 2020, a Joint Task Force was established and launched Operation FORTITUDE, for the purpose of planning and conducting tasks relating to COVID-19.The planning cell in the joint task force enables and directs all COVID-19 related operations and activities.

The task force headquarters is organised along traditional military lines, with operations and project managers, logistic planners and administrative staff. The joint task force also has a core team of academic experts in fields such as: medicine, emergency management, engineering, and data analytics – personnel who can offer advice and inform opinion.


Since the launch of Op FORTITUDE, the Defence Forces, in accordance with the national cross-government plan, concentrated their efforts on supporting the HSE.


The main effort for this support to the HSE is specifically the COVID-19 Testing Centre at the Aviva Stadium, this support can broadly be classified as the provision of military planning expertise; command and control structures; engineering advice and works; logistic and transport; military medical assets and defence real estate. The DF has also provided advice based on our experiences dealing with Ebola in Africa and operations with EUNAVFORMED (Operation SOPHIA). Defence Forces support is provided across four specific work streams, labelled the four (4) T’s, Testing, Tracing, Transport and Tentage.

Total DF resources employed to date (18 Dec 2020) are listed in the table below:

Resource Total to Date 
Personnel (Individual duties)53,259
NS Vessels197

Examples of operations under four T’s:


  1. Construction, administration and testing at COVID-19 Test Centres
  2. The use of Naval Ships in Dublin and Galway ports to provide support to shore side test centres.
  3. Testing, admin and marshalling at the Aviva Test Centre with 44,064 tests to date
  4. Military First Responders deployed at HSE Test Centres countrywide with 2282 deployed days to date
  5. Marshalling at HSE Test Centres, Galway Airport, Kilkenny, Ballymullen Bks in Tralee, Waterford, Wexford and Clonmel. On average 80 Marshalls per day were provided to these test centres


  1. The use of cadets and the DF Bands in ‘contact tracing’ at various points during the operation
  2. We will redeploy for this task in the Brigade and Formation own contact tracing centres from 27 Dec 20.


  1. Deployment of Defence Forces ambulances to support HSE / NAS
  2. Transportation of vulnerable civilians to COVID-19 Test Centres
  3. Collection, storage and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical supplies
  4. Contingency training of drivers to transport medical gasses
  5. Provision of rotary and fixed wing aircraft for HSE support tasks as required including flights to Germany with swabs for testing.
  6. Provision of transport for residents of Direct Provision Centres on a standby basis for the Dept. of Justice and Equality.
  7. To date the Defence Forces have provided 9186 transport movements on this operation


  1. Provision of tentage to hospital triage facilities, COVID-19 Testing Centres, both at HSE sites and as required at pop up locations such as meat plants and step-down facilities. To date there have been 126 deployments of DF Tentage.

Other tasks provided include

a.    Logistics support at Punchestown and City West Test Centres

b.    ​Manufacture of PPE

c.    The L. E. Eithne as a Logistics Support base whilst alongside at the Port of Cork

d.    Contingency Support to Nursing Homes

e.    Conversion of a Military Hospital as a COVID-19 ‘step-down’ facility

f.     Support to, and manning of, National Temporary Body Storage Facilities

g.    Adaptation of DF training camps as COVID-19 isolation locations

h.    Provision of Refrigeration Storage at Gormanston Camp

i.      The DF are represented on the Vaccination Task Force and on HSE Working Groups such as Surge capacity and NAS Testing Pop Ups


Significant liaison activities have taken place, with primacy given to the HSE. The JTF are sitting on a number of HSE Working Groups including Surge Capacity, NAS Pop-Up Sites, and the Vaccination Plan which has a permanent JTF officer located with the HSE planning team. Examples of liaison with other agencies include: DUBLIN and CORK Airports; DUBLIN, CORK and GALWAY Port Authorities; Office of Emergency Planning, Irish Lights; Irish Water; ESB; Vodafone; EIR; and, An Post.

Surge Capacity

In close cooperation with the HSE and its working groups, DF planners have developed contingency plans to provide the HSE with a significant surge capacity in terms of Swab Testing and Contact Tracing capabilities, two key components in the fight against Covid-19.

In addition to our ongoing support to the HSE such as the AVIVA Test site the DF have provided additional frontline support over the Christmas period which is planned to continue until the suppression of the third wave. This support has significantly increased the surge capacity of the HSE. The DF have committed up to 56 Military First Responders (MFRs) daily to the CHOs which provides a surge in capacity of up to an additional 4,000 swab tests daily. In terms of Contact Tracing an additional 60 DF personnel were trained by the HSE over the Christmas weekend to compliment the DF Bands already deployed bringing our total surge support figure to the HSE in this area of Contact Tracing to 100 DF personnel for the third wave.     


Work was conducted with the HSE and Gardaí on a COVID-19 App, which will assist contact tracking and tracing. The DF also worked with Trinity College Dublin (TCD), specifically with a virologist specialising in influenza, in cross checking planning assumptions and developing medical intelligence on which DF planning could be based. Additional work was conducted with University College Cork (UCC), examining ways to improve PPE production capacity in the state, for example using 3D printers to produce facemasks and goggles for the HSE. From an innovation perspective, the biggest breakthrough has been the development of Anti-Bioagent Wipe (AB Wipe). The DF has also been involved in the testing of re-adapted commercial off the shelf (COTS) technology normally found in amusement parks and cruise ships to offer a new approach to management of personal contacts and social distancing measures. The device itself is a simple wearable watch that uses Blue-Tooth connectivity to identify, measure and track interactions between wearers. This was done in collaboration with Irish company DIGISOFT.

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