Cpl. Linda Gruddy, Ballyshannon with Paul Kehoe, Minister with Responsibility for Defence at the presentation of 1916 Centenary Commemorative Medals in Finner Camp on Friday. Photo Thomas Gallagher IN
Members of the 28 Inf Bn were presented with a 1916 Centenary Commemorative Medal by the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe on Friday at Finner Camp.
Nationwide over the next ten days members of the Defence Forces who served this year will receive a 1916 medal which had previously only been presented to people who participated in the 1916 Rising.
The medal is awarded nationally to anybody in the Permanent Defence Force and serving members of the Reserve Defence Forces.
The 1916 Medal was first introduced in 1941 and was awarded to veterans of the Rising or their next of kin.
Minister Kehoe TD, Minister with Responsibility for Defence, said the medal represents a very special acknowledgement from the Government to the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann, both Permanent and Reserve, who have served during this centenary year.
“The medal highlights the Government’s appreciation of the excellent work undertaken by all of you, while at home and overseas, and your commitment to excellence which is the hallmark of our Defence Forces,” he said.
The minister added: “It has been a privilege for me to be here today to express not only my gratitude, but that of the Government, for your contribution in honouring our forebears, and lending dignity and respect to all the commemorative ceremonies this year.
“The Government, in awarding this medal is commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising and recognising the central role played by Óglaigh na hÉireann both in the past and in this important year,” he told soldiers on parade at the 28th Inf Bn gym.
Speaking in relation to the medal he said: “I believe that it is a fitting tribute and thank you from the Government, on behalf of the people of Ireland, to our Defence Forces. I hope that the members of the Defence Forces who continue to serve or who have served during this centenary year will wear this medal with pride and in doing so accept the gratitude of the Government and the Irish people for their dedication to duty during this commemorative year.”
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat after the ceremony, the Minister acknowledged the role of the 109th Infantry Battalion currently serving in Lebanon with the United Nations Interim Force.
Many of those on duty in Lebanon are from the north west with the 28th Infantry Battalion, based in Finner Camp, the main contributing unit with 59 personnel.
“Peace keeping duties are so important. I visited the troops a number of weeks ago to wish them a happy Christmas and a happy New Year, but most importantly a safe and successful trip. We can take the work of the defence forces for granted but that's one thing I don't. I have such respect and appreciation for the men and women who are serving there.”
In a reference to the recent recognition of Irish soldiers, again many of them from the north west who were honoured for their bravery while serving as part of a 150-strong Irish UN battalion under Commander Patrick Quinlan during the 1961 Siege of Jadotville, the Minister agreed it was “appropriate” and timely that they would be recognised.
“It was important that this happened and here today I met the grandson of one soldier who was there, so I’m well aware how relevant it is to people here and throughout the country.”
On Friday soldiers who received the 1916 medal were joined by family and friends and students from nearby schools at the ceremony. Dignitaries attending included the Mayor of Donegal County Council, Cllr Terence Slowey.