Defence Forces promotes woman to colonel for first time

Galway woman Maureen O’Brien joined forces as cadet in 1981

Maureen O’Brien

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and TD Paul Kehoe congratulate Colonel Maureen O’Brien at Government Buildings today | Image: Defence Forces

The Defence Forces has promoted a woman to the position of colonel for the first time in its history.

Col Maureen O’Brien is taking up the appointment of director of communications and information services.

The NUI Galway graduate, who also holds postgraduate qualifications from UCC and NUI Maynooth, was awarded a cadetship with the forces in 1981.

On commissioning in 1983, she was posted as an infantry officer to the 4th Infantry Battalion in Cork.

Col O’Brien has since held a number of roles in operations, training and strategic planning.

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

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

For the last two years, she has been a senior staff officer responsible for EU and NATO engagement in the Operations Branch of the Defence Forces headquarters.

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

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  The non-combatant policy for female recruits was only withdrawn in 1992.