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Seventy years of Army publication marked by move to Curragh

The historic decentralisation of the Dept. of Defence to Newbridge earlier this year was accompanied also by the relocation of units of the Defence Forces Head Quarters to the Curragh Camp. A welcome accompaniment to this relocation was the arrival of the editorial offices of An Cosantóir, the  Defence Forces monthly magazine, to the Curragh.  The timing is auspicious as this year An Cosantóir (‘the defender’) is marking the seventieth anniversary of its first full year of publication in 1941.
 The magazine is a rarity among the publication efforts of Irish public bodies. Most large Government agencies have house-magazines which are for internal consumption only.
The Defence Forces magazine, in contrast, has always been available to the public.  Although fulfilling the functions of a house-magazine it also provides an attractive window for the outside world to learn more about the work of the men and women who comprise Ireland’s Defence Forces.  Today the magazine is a quality production printed on super-glossy paper which does justice to its top class photography.  The magazine’s content template provides for all interests. Reports written by soldiers who participate in gruelling training exercises on the Curragh or the Glen of Imaal bring a personal touch to the content.  Articles on military ceremonial occasions, on equipment, tactics and training as well as generous coverage of army sporting events are other key features of its content.  Looming large is coverage of overseas missions where the challenges faced by Irish troops on a daily basis in UN service are well documented. From its first edition military history has been a feature and the past year alone has seen the magazine give prominence to the memories of Congo veterans – a UN mission which gripped Irish public opinion in the 1960s like none other.
Today’s glossy An Cosantóir contrasts with the austere feel of the early editions starting with volume one which was published just after Christmas 1940 at a time when the Second World War was at its most dangerous.
Although Ireland had declared neutrality the threat of invasion by any of the warring powers was a daily fear.  The Irish coastline was manned by coast-watching personnel on the look out for ships and aircraft which could herald a full scale invasion. At one stage or another there were invasion threats from the Germans, British, and even from the Americans.
As a response to such dangers Eamon de Valera’s government mobilised plans to greatly expand the capability of the Defence Forces. The Army had been neglected through the 1930s but the situation had now to be reversed and the numbers of troops built up rapidly.  In order to reach out to a wider resource of manpower the Government also recruited for a reserve force known variously as the Local Security Force (LSF) or Local Defence Force (LDF). 
However such rapid expansion of the military was fraught with its own tensions not least the fact that many of the recruits came from households which still harboured bitterness over the Civil War and the subsequent damaging split in Irish politics.
Senior Army personnel realised that a sense of camaraderie needed to be fostered to ensure that any residual Civil War animosities did not cause tensions in the ranks of the newly expanded Army. It was a case of achieving cohesion in the face of a common enemy. The publication of a new magazine titled An Cosantóir was one of the strategies deployed. The mission to foster a common bond despite the disagreements  in the previous decades was made clear in the introductory article of the first issue in which the Chief of Staff, Major-General Dan McKenna, wrote: “ The present expansion of the Army has brought into its ranks men of every political party and men of every creed and class. This unification of the different elements of the community is in itself one of the greatest factors in our defensive strength today … No personal feelings or prejudices must be permitted to mar this unity.’
The first issue came off the presses on December 27, 1940 and cost just two pence. It’s content, as well as the exhortations on unity and loyalty, was diverse and included articles designed to boost the training capacity of the forces dealing with such military subjects as ‘Map Reading,’ ‘Ambushes’ and planning ‘A successful raid.’ Leadership was an important element too at a time when young men had big responsibilities landed on their shoulders so articles on ‘ How to Instruct’ and ‘A Talk to the NCOs’ featured.
The early issues of An Cosantóir were published by the Southern Command before it’s publication was taken under the wing of Army Headquarters in Parkgate Street, Dublin where it was located for decades. A long-time Editor who helped shape the magazine for modern times was Naas resident Col. Con Costello better known to readers of the Leader as the writer of this ‘Looking Back’ column for a remarkable twenty-five years.  Now, as it marks its seventieth year in print, the Defence Force’s magazine has made its third move and will be published from its Curragh Camp  for, it is to be hoped, another seventy years and more. Series no: 257.

In series 257 of his weekly column in the Leinster Leader Liam Kenny writes about An Cosantoir's move from Dublin to the Curragh. Our thanks to Liam

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