Óglaigh na hÉireann, more commonly referred to as the Irish Defence Forces, are the Force that Defends Ireland. Composed of an tArm, the Army; an tAerchór, the Air Corps; and an tSeirbhís Cabhlaigh, the Naval Service; the Irish Defense Forces boasts nearly 10,000 (9,981, according to The Other Wiki) active personnel, and 12,348 reserve personnel; and a 1 billion budget. The Defense forces main duty is to protect Ireland, in case neutrality fails to protect it. The Irish Defense Forces have maintained a presence in United Nations armed peacekeeping missions almost continuously since 1958, except for a four year period from 1974 to 1978.
Admittedly, the Irish Defence Forces aren't one of the best equipped forces around, or even produce their own equipment (except for ships, but this ceased in The '80s), but There Is No Such Thing as Notability.
In fiction, the actual Irish Defence Forces aren't terribly likely to show up, as they haven't really done much besides the UN work. This isn't helped by the fact that Irish people with serious military inclinations tend to go to the British armed forcesnote , which promise more "action", or to the French Foreign Legion if they have serious political objections to serving the British Crown. Counter-terrorism for those occasions when The Troubles spilled over into the Republic tended to be handled by the Gardaí. However, the Irish Defence Forces can trace their lineage back to the original Irish Republican Army, specifically the part of the IRA that pledged its loyalty to the Irish Free State/the pro-Treaty side of the Irish Civil War.
The Army is made up of several components:
- The Infantry Corps, made up of 9 active battalions and 9 reserve battalions. The weaponry for the Infantry Corps comes from various sources, for example, the Steyr AUG with optional M203 is the main assault rifle, with HK USP pistol as the main sidearm.
- The Artillery Corps, which use the big guns to provide support to the Infantry Corps and Cavalry Corps. They're also in charge of Anti-Air operations.
- The Cavalry Corps, which contrary to their name, do not use horses. Instead, they're in charge of the resident Awesome Personnel Carrier, the MOWAG Piranha, the Panhard AML armored cars and the resident Tank Goodness, the FV101 Scorpion light tanks. (A light tank is a really small tank.)
- The Engineer Corps, who build campsites, bridges, repair vehicles, the usual things.
- The Ordinance Corps, who buy and maintain all the Irish Defense Force's explosives, and destroy any that are found lying around.
- The Transport Corps, who transport what needs to be transported.
- The Medical Corps, who... take a guess.
- The Military Police Corps, who police the military.
- The Communications And Information Services Corps, who maintain communications between various units.
- The Irish Army Ranger Wing, although technically part of the Infantry Corps, deserves it's own section. Created when several Irish Officers went to Ranger School in America, the Ranger Wing is the Special Operations team of the Irish Defence Forces. They use different equipment than the normal Infantry Corps, including HK416s, an improved version of the M4 Carbine.
The Air Corps
The first Irish military aircraft was purchased during the Anglo-Irish Treaty talks to provide Michael Collins with an escape back to Ireland, just in case. During WWII, the primary combat plane was initially the Gloster Gladiator, although eventually Hurricanes and other more modern British aircraft were added. Though Ireland was bombed once or twice (by the Luftwaffe who claimed to have mistaken Dublin for Belfast), the Irish (unlike the Swiss) never did shoot down any trespassing Nazis. The first jets were De Havilland Vampire trainers. During the 1960s, the Air Corps played a role in several well-known aviation films such as The Blue Max.
Today's Air Corps has a few Pilatus PC-9 trainers (converted to light attack aircraft), helicopters, transports, and executive jets. Two aircraft evacuated Irish nationals from Libya in 2011.
The Naval Service
At one point a Butt-Monkey of the Defence Forces (The Dubliners famously recorded a song mocking their incapability), the Naval Service dates back as far as 1946, when it succeeded the Coastal and Marine Service. Initially equipped with hand-me-downs from the Royal Navy (the Flower class corvettes were battle-damaged relics from World War II which wound up being notoriously unreliable), they finally adopted purpose-built ships of their own in The '70s in order to patrol the increased territorial range of Irish waters, though two former Royal Navy ships are still in service.
Day to day, the Naval Service operates fishery patrols, though search and rescue and drug interdiction are part of their mandate. As of 2015/2016 they are also involved in rescuing refugees in the Med.
- Mercenaries 2: World in Flames: Ewan Devlin, the Irish helicopter pilot you can recruit into your PMC got his start in the Irish military.
- Out Of Range by Barry Foley centres around a terrorist attack on a cruise liner which the Navy must respond to. Foley had served during The '80s, so he drew on his own experience when writing the book.
- The Guard references the Navy's participation in drug interdiction. Ultimately, they have been misdirected and don't actually appear.
- The Snapper. Sharon's older brother is a Corporal in the Army who has just returned from peacekeeping duties in Lebanon. He notes that he was given a gun, but no ammo.
- Michael Collins delves into their origins both before and after The Irish Revolution. Collins was the first Chief Of Staff after all.
- The Wind That Shakes the Barley: Teddy is commissioned in the newly-formed Army after the treaty is put into effect. In many ways, they act much like their former enemies when searching for anti-treaty rebels. Teddy is forced to execute his brother, Damien, by firing squad in the film's ending.
- Calvary has Milo tell Father James that he's considering enlisting. Indeed, in the film's final montage, Milo is seen being sworn in.
- The Siege of Jadotville, a Netflix original film, is a fictionalised version of the Irish Army's achievement. Heavily outnumbered, they took on twenty times their number and took no losses and few wounded before being forced to surrender.
- Ciaran Fitzgerald, much loved captain of the 1982 and 1985 Irish Triple Crown (rugby) teams, was an officer in the Irish Army.
- Michael Carruth, an Olympic gold medal winning boxer, was serving in the Army as an NCO during his win at the 1992 Olympics.