The Irish Defence Forces, 1922-2022
Servant of the Nation
Tracing its history to the foundation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, the Irish Defence Forces has evolved beyond recognition from the force that emerged in tandem with the new state in 1922. Plunged immediately into chaos of a bitter civil war, the path to a modern, professional Defence Forces during the 1920s and 1930s was rarely smooth, with progression hampered by internal dissent, political manoeuvrings and limited financial investment. The difficulties of creating and maintaining a force capable of defending the neutrality of a small island nation, with a geopolitical and strategic importance that belied its size, were brought home during the Emergency. Nonetheless, the state’s desire to maintain its neutrality as global politics became increasingly polarised in the post-war years allowed new opportunities to develop. Following Ireland’s accession to the United Nations in 1955, the Defence Forces emerged as a core member of the UN’s peacekeeping efforts, concurrently developing as a vital element of Ireland’s international relations. Beginning in 1958 and in every year since, members of the Defence Forces have served overseas on peacekeeping missions with the United Nations, and later with EEC/EU military operations. At home, the Defence Forces’ duties in aid of the civil power became ever more vital with the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland in 1969. In recent years a number of important challenges have emerged, both internally and externally, with the Defence Forces compelled to adapt to changing demands at home and abroad.
This richly illustrated book explores the landmark successes and achievements, struggles and missteps of the Defence Forces over the past century. Highlighting the men and women of all components of the Forces - Army, Air Corps, Naval Service and Reserve - and their operational roles both in Ireland and internationally, the book offers the first complete overview of the development of the Defence Forces from the foundation of the Irish Free State to the present day.
Eoin Kinsella is the founder and director of historyworks, providing historical consultancy and research services in the fields of heritage and public history. He holds a PhD in Irish history from UCD and is the author of Dublin City University, 1980–2020: designed to be different (Dublin, 2020), Catholic survival in Protestant Ireland, 1660–1711 (Martlesham, Suffolk, 2018) and Leopardstown Park Hospital, 1917–2017: a home for wounded soldiers (Dublin, 2017).