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Death of Former COS Carl O'Sullivan

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  • Death of Former COS Carl O'Sullivan

    Former Defence Forces Chief of Staff Carl O'Sullivan dies

    Thursday September 11 2008
    Former Chief of staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Carl O'Sullivan, has died.
    The Lieutenant General, who died early this morning, served in the Southern Brigade and overseas in Cyprus before his appointment to the position of Chief of staff in 1976.
    He is survived by his wife Maura and their four children.
    Defence Minister Willie O'Dea has expressed his condolences to Mr O'Sullivan's family.

  • #2
    Funeral of former army Chief of Staff
    Saturday, 13 September 2008 12:20

    Full military honours were rendered this morning at the funeral of a former Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Carl O'Sullivan, who died on Thursday aged 88.

    General O'Sullivan was head of the Defence Forces for five years from 1976.

    During that time the army was highly active in assisting gardaí in dealing with the spill over of the Troubles into the Republic, particularly along the border.

    AdvertisementDuring his term of office, the Defence Forces also deployed to Lebanon - where 700 Irish soldiers served at any one time for 23 years up to 2001.

    A native of Kerry, General O'Sullivan was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his outstanding service to the Defence Forces upon his retirement.

    He later became a leading figure in Irish horseracing circles.

    Following Mass at McKee Barracks in Dublin this morning, the burial is taking place around lunchtime at Cornamagh Cemetery, Athlone where a military guard of honour will be formed and a volley of shots fired over the graveside.

    General O'Sullivan is survived by wife Maura and his four children, Carl, Geraldine, Eimear and Joan.

    Full military honours were rendered this morning at the funeral of a former Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Carl O'Sullivan.
    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead


    • #3
      Dedicated soldier, officer and loyal servant to the State

      Dedicated soldier, officer and loyal servant to the State

      LIEUT GEN Carl O'Sullivan, who has died aged 88, was a former chief of staff of the Defence Forces. He had previously served in the southern brigade, the military college and overseas in Cyprus.

      Known to speak his mind, in April 1980, at an "unusually forthright" press briefing in Dublin, he called for the UN peacekeeping mandate in Lebanon to be changed to allow UN troops to patrol right up to the Israeli border.

      This followed the killing of two Irish soldiers by Israeli-backed Christian militia men. Army spokesmen at the press briefing dismantled the Israeli version of events, and showed that when it came to counter-attack, the Army could look after itself.

      In the 1980s, following his retirement, he made a series of controversial speeches on Irish neutrality. In 1981 he said that Ireland was getting its defence on the cheap and was relying on Europe to protect it without making its own proper contribution.

      Insisting that he was not advocating that Ireland should join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, he said that Ireland should be prepared to play its part in a European defence system.

      The following year he said Ireland was neither neutral nor truly sovereign because of its inability to ward off external aggression; a defence pact should be made with Europe even if that meant offering facilities on Irish territory.

      He insisted that Ireland's capacity for defence was central to Irish sovereignty, which he saw as the ability to defend the State or to be defended.

      "The 26-county State would do well to grow to such mature sovereignty before we think about other areas of sovereignty like Northern Ireland," he said.

      He claimed subsequently that Ireland's Defence Forces were unable to maintain the country's neutrality in the face of the threat of external aggression. Ireland, he added, was duty bound not to leave a gap in Europe's defences.

      This latter statement drew criticism from the opposition. Then minister for defence Paddy Power refused to comment publicly, but was understood to have deplored the speech.

      An Irish Times editorial defended Gen O'Sullivan's right to speak: " . . . it is a good thing that one of the more eloquent retired officers should try, purely on the intellectual level and eschewing any political attitudinising, to make us think hard on the vital subject of our strategic position in this dangerous world", it noted.

      Born in Tralee, Co Kerry, in 1919, and from a farming background, O'Sullivan was educated locally by the Christian Brothers and seemed destined for a career in the Civil Service.

      However, "on the spur of the moment", he joined the Army as a cadet in 1938. Commissioned in 1939, his first posting was to Limerick where he was a platoon commander with the 9th Infantry Battalion. He was promoted commandant in 1943 and colonel in 1959.

      In 1961 he became commandant of the command and staff school, and of the military college in the following year. In 1964-5 he served with the United Nations as Asst Chief of Staff in Cyprus.

      He was appointed officer commanding the southern command in 1968 and quartermaster-general in 1971. In retirement, he was chairman of the Army Pensions Board.

      Interviewed in 1980, he said the Army had given him a full and satisfying career.

      "There is a tremendous feeling of comradeship and team spirit, which lay people might find it hard to understand. And there is also great satisfaction in working for your country, and knowing that you are upholding the country's good name. This feeling is particularly strong when serving abroad."

      He held many decorations, including the Emergency Service medal, the United Nations (Cyprus) medal, the Gran Cruz de la Orden de Merito Militair (Spanish), the Commander de la Legion d'Honneur (French), the Swedish Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Polar Star, and Commander in the Order of Leopold of Belgium.

      On his retirement in June 1981 he was awarded the Distinguished Service medal 1st grade for his outstanding service to the Defence Forces.

      His military heroes included the Russian Marshal Kutusov, who tackled Napoleon's forces at Borodino, and in the second World War, German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, who fought with considerable bravery when the tide of the Russian campaign was turning against him.

      He played minor football for Kerry, and went on to play at senior level.

      In later life he played golf and was also chairman of Riding for the Disabled.

      He was, in addition, a member of the Turf Club and of the Curragh Race Committee.

      In the early 1980s he and his wife visited Russia. The visit inspired him to reread Tolstoy and to read Turgenev, Pushkin and Gorky.

      Predeceased by his first wife Joan, he is survived by his wife Maura and daughters Geraldine, Joan and Emer and son Carl.

      • Lieut Gen Carl O'Sullivan: born October 18th, 1919; died September 10th, 2008

      Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead