Ireland's first female colonel says there's no glass ceiling in Defence Forces

"The opportunities are there"

Ireland's first female colonel says there's no glass ceiling in Defence Forces

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and TD Paul Kehoe congratulate Colonel Maureen O’Brien at Government Buildings on Thursday July 7th | Image: Defence Forces

Col Maureen O'Brien, the first woman in Irish history to be promoted to the position of colonel by the Defence Forces, has said that women are not discriminated against when it comes to the top jobs.

Asked if she thinks the glass ceiling is keeping other women from getting promoted, she said:

"It's not. The opportunities are there. It's for people to accept those opportunities and the risks and responsibilities that are with that. And if you do that, you will progress."

Women currently account for just over 6% of army personnel. The non-combatant policy for female recruits was withdrawn in 1992.

Col O'Brien has now taken up the appointment of director of communications and information services.

Having graduated from UCG, the Galway native was awarded a cadetship in 1981, just one year after the army allowed women to apply.

She was then posted as an infantry officer to the 4th Infantry Battalion in Cork.

In 2011, she became the first woman to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

A year later, she became the first female infantry battalion commander in 2012, when she was appointed officer commanding of the 27 Infantry Battalion in Dundalk.

She has been a senior staff officer responsible for EU and NATO engagement in the Operations Branch of the Defence Forces headquarters for the past two years.

Col O’Brien has also seen extensive overseas service in Lebanon, East Timor, Bosnia, Chad and Western Sahara.

She holds postgraduate qualifications from UCC and NUI Maynooth.