herald

Monday 16 December 2019

Defence Forces to splash €700k on new motorbike escorts

Riders at an escort of honour for Queen Elizabeth in 2011
Riders at an escort of honour for Queen Elizabeth in 2011

The Defence Forces is set to spend around €700,000 on 48 new motorcycles for ceremonial use in providing "escorts of honour" for dignitaries.

The new motorbikes will replace the Army's existing fleet of 46 Honda Deauville 700cc models, which were purchased in 2008. These will be traded in as part of the upgrade.

Tenders are currently being sought for the contract to supply the 48 new bikes. They are expected to be delivered to the Curragh Camp in Kildare by the end of November.

Escorts of honour are provided by the 2nd Cavalry Squadron of the Defence Forces on ceremonial occasions such as visits by dignitaries, presidential inaugurations and St Patrick's Day parades.

According to the Defence Forces' website, these displays "add dignity to the occasion by the general bearing, turn out and dressing out of the escort".

A spokesperson said that maintaining a motorbike fleet of "sufficient standard" is essential due to the nature of the duties performed.

Criticism

However, the outlay on vehicles for use solely on ceremonial occasions is likely to be questioned in light of the Government's repeated refusal to improve pay and conditions for Defence Forces personnel.

Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ruled out fast-tracking pay restoration for the military despite facing a recruitment and retention crisis. His comments followed public criticism and calls for improved conditions.

A military spokesperson said that the existing fleet of escort of honour motorbikes was due for disposal in 2020. The new bikes will be ready for ceremonial duties from next January.

The 48 bikes include both an operational and training fleet, and there is a possibility that additional purchases will be made.

"The contract value at €700,000 should be seen as an estimate only. The exact value will be known once the tender is completed," the spokesperson added.

An escort of honour was first provided by the Defence Forces for the 31st Eucharistic Congress in June 1932. The original mounted unit was replaced by motorcycles in 1949.

The first full presidential escort was provided for Sean T O'Kelly in May 1956.

The motor squadron provided an escort of honour at the inauguration of Eamon de Valera in 1959, and has been present at every presidential inauguration since.

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