Civil Defence History

History and Development

In 1950 the Irish Government set up Civil Defence. It was envisaged at the time as a community based self-help organisation that would protect the civilian population in times of war. During the early 1970’s the organisation was used on both a local and national basis to help victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

From the mid 1970’s to the mid 1980’s the focus for the organisation shifted and a Warden service was equipped and trained to monitor and report radiation levels such as might be expected in Nuclear War. This training proved invaluable in assisting with the consequences of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 1986.

The changing international climate at the end of the 1980’s led to a review of Civil Defence and the development of a new programme called ‘Towards 2000’. This programme emphasises the role the Civil Defence plays in providing services to the community. It is the skills required by this programme that Exercise 2001 is intended to test.

The Minister for Defence, assisted by a Minister for State is ultimately responsible for Civil Defence. It is the Minister who decides the policy for Civil Defence and it is the Principal Officer of Civil Defence, acting under the Secretary General of the Department of Defence who implements this policy.

The Principal Officer is assisted by the Civil Defence Branch which is based in the Roscrea. This is the administrative centre and is the source of training and expertise for the organisation. The organisation is financed jointly by the Department of Defence (70%) and the Local Authorities (30%).

The provision of services is organised at a Local Authority level. The City or County Manager in each Local Authority is responsible for Civil Defence in their area. A Civil Defence Officer (C.D.O.) is appointed in each area by the Chief Executive. The C.D.O. is responsible for planning, organising and recruiting for Civil Defence. S/he may be assisted by one or more Assistant Civil Defence Officers (A.C.D.O.).

The Civil Defence Organisation is unique in that it is practically entirely voluntary. The C.D.O. is assisted in his/her responsibilities by volunteer officers, some of whom may be qualified to act as instructors. The senior officer is the commander who will be assisted by First, Second and Third Officers. At the team level Leaders and Deputy Leaders will be appointed to assist with conducting the activities of Civil Defence.