Proposed new legislation will make it illegal for anyone but the Defence Forces to call themselves Óglaigh na hÉireann.
Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne is calling for the title to be legally protected to prevent dissidents or political organisations from using it.
The name was first used by the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and later by the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence.
The Provisional IRA also co-opted the name during the Troubles and Senator Byrne told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that it now needs to be protected to ensure it only refers to the men and women of the Defence Forces that “serve us bravely in uniform.”
“There is only one Óglaigh na hÉireann and that is our Defence Forces but I discovered that one of the problems we have is that the title itself is not protected,” he said.
“We saw in recent years that it has been used by a dissident group in the North and occasionally it is used by others who try to use for a variety of purposes.
“I think it is concerning that the title is not protected so the legislation I am introducing will make it an offence to use the terms Óglaigh na hÉireann or Defence Forces in any context other than where it applies to the Defence Forces.”
Senator Byrne admitted the legislation would be largely symbolic and said it could ideally be a deterrent.
“It is probably the case that some of those who don’t respect the State probably won’t care about this legislation but I think it also sends a political message out there that there is only one Óglaigh na hÉireann and they are the Defence Forces,” he said.
“It is important to stress that this does not apply to the historical context of the Irish Volunteers who were Óglaigh na hÉireann and so on or to any organisation that uses Óglaigh na hÉireann like say veteran’s organisations or PDFORRA (Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association) or RACO (Representative Association of Commissioned Officers) – organisations that use it in relation to the Defence Forces.
“So, you can use Óglaigh na hÉireann where you are talking about the Defence Forces but if you have a situation where a political group or a group of dissidents start to use that title it would be an offence.”
Óglaigh na hÉireann
Senator Byrne said there are many issues surrounding the Defence Forces that need to be addressed but insisted his legislation would be “very important” for Ireland’s troops.
“Certainly, we need to address the questions around terms and conditions of those in our Defence Forces but I think it needs to be made very clear that there is only one Óglaigh na hÉireann and that is those men and women who serve us bravely in uniform,” he said.
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