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'I'm extremely proud': Irish Navy appoints first female Commander

The first female Commander in the history of the Irish Naval Service has said she is "overwhelmed...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

09.32 5 Sep 2020


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'I'm extremely proud': Irish N...

'I'm extremely proud': Irish Navy appoints first female Commander

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

09.32 5 Sep 2020


Share this article


The first female Commander in the history of the Irish Naval Service has said she is "overwhelmed and extremely proud" following her appointment.

Roberta O'Brien, from Tipperary, was one of two women who joined in the Navy in 1995 when it became open to females.

Her grandfather and uncle both served in the service and her husband, Peadar Ó Catháin, is currently a Lieutenant Colonel.

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Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, she said: "I'm overwhelmed and extremely proud and delighted and quite emotional with all the support and congratulations I'm receiving from friends and family who have supported me throughout the 25-year journey that I've had."

Commander O'Brien said she wanted to join the Navy as she was always interested in the sea, despite coming from a landlocked county.

She said: "I had an idea about what the roles and responsibilities were of being in the Navy.

"It appealed to me, the variation between the academic and the outdoor life.

"I was into a lot of sports at the time, I played hurling when I was under on an all-boys team."

'We knew no different'

Commander O'Brien said that when she joined in 1995 along with Orla Gallagher, who is now a Lieutenant Commander, they "knew no different".

She said: "We just knew that we wanted to be in the Navy and I suppose that's the naivety of youth.

"When you're reading the prospectus of the career, you know it's not going to be a 9-5 job, it was going to be spending time away from home and visiting different countries.

"It was the variation of what the job would bring that excited us."

She said the Naval Service is an equal opportunities employer and that when they joined in 1995, there was no area that they couldn't progress to, and the avenue of commanding a ship was always available to them.

In her role, Commander O'Brien will be implementing policies that have come down from the Chief of Staff and the Government at a unit level.

She was recently in charge of 300 people as part of a role in logistics, but there is a "huge amount of variation" in the job spec depending on the appointment she is given.

Family life

She said her husband work to support each other at different times of their lives given their duties in the Navy while trying to juggle raising three children.

They have both been required to serve abroad and spend time away from home which requires "different sacrifices".

Commander O'Brien said she hopes her appointment will encourage both women and men to join the Naval Service.

She added: "I really do it hope it entices other women and men to join.

"It is a difficult career it does come with challenges but it provides amazing opportunities.

"It wasn't an easy journey but it's all about trying to get the balance and seeing what's right for you."

Main image: Roberta O'Brien, the first female Commander in the Navy.

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