Building a Better Health Service

Your Health

Defence Forces vital COVID 19 role

Members of the Irish Defence Forces deliver COVID-19 vaccines to remote islands off the west coast of Ireland

When they were needed to step up during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Defence Forces jumped into action and their experience proved vital.

One of the biggest logistical tasks it carried out was the construction and operation of the Community Test Centre at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Opened in May 2020, it took its last test on Sunday, February 28th. It averaged 410 swabs daily during December and January and the highest daily total was 665.

Vaccination rollout

The focus of the Defence Forces has now moved to supporting the HSE with the National Quarantine Programme and the mass vaccination rollout.

As soon as the pandemic begin, a joint task force (JTF) was established, with its main effort in direct support to the HSE. The JTF brought together a wealth of operational and planning experience from across the Defence Forces with experts in logistical planning, emergency planning, engineering, medical and a myriad of other specialisations under one roof and with one clear objective, explained Brigadier General Brendan McGuinness, Commander of the JTF.

“The support started with the provision of cadets as contact tracers, then to the transportation of PPE being flown in from China, the supply and erection of tents to provide additional capacity to hospitals, the deployment of medical officers to The National Emergency Operations Centre and Connolly Hospital, Dublin, the deployment of ambulances and medical staff to support the National Ambulance Service and the use of Naval Service ships in Dublin and Galway as support platforms for COVID testing,” he said.

“This was the starting point of DF COVID operations and our involvement would only increase from there, to the point today where in excess of 62,000 man-days have been utilised. At every point the JTF staff have played a central role in planning, executing and overseeing all of these operations and they have worked tirelessly to ensure that the DF have played its role in the national fight against the virus.”


Brigadier General McGuinness said he is always proud of the men and women of the Defence Forces, particularly the role they have played in the national effort in the past 12 months. He highlighted the decisiveness they have shown, and ability of the Defence Forces to generate internal forces, move to support the HSE, train our personnel, keep them safe and operate in COVID-risk environments.

“I’m proud of the ability of the Defence Forces to plan and ‘see ahead’ in terms of moving from the initial tasks focusing on PPE distribution to contact tracing, onto swab testing and finally in recent weeks providing non-clinical support to nursing homes,” he said.

“Presently the Defence Forces are engaged in working with the HSE to support the National Vaccination rollout and engaging with a range of stakeholders on providing support to a National Quarantine plan.”

He expressed this huge gratitude to all the members of the Defence Forces.


“My primary message to the women and men of the DF is one of gratitude. This is for a number of reasons, I wish to acknowledge their discipline, their ability to train and shift focus to non-military roles quickly, efficiently and safely. I also wish to commend the continued sense of resilience I see in the DF support effort against COVID,” said Brigadier General McGuinness.

“I am also conscious that Commanders at all levels have been very supportive to the COVID effort at home in addition to the range of ongoing security and operational tasks across the country. For all of this service and commitment to the Defence Forces and for helping to protect the people of Ireland I say thank you.”