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Introduction to Civil Defence in Ireland - Background

The voluntary Air Raid protection organisation had been in operation during the second world war but was disbanded once hostilities ended. During the ensuing Cold War period the Government determined that a Civil Defence organisation fully trained to cope with a nuclear situation was a necessity.

As a result, Civil Defence was set up in 1950, to be part of the national defence structure as the necessary civil response to potential hazards which might arise in a war situation. The organisation was designed to undertake non–combatant activities and measures to afford defence against or mitigate the effects on persons and property of an attack on the state or of hazards otherwise arising during a time of war or emergency such as from radioactive fallout, biological or chemical warfare.
With the enactment of the Civil Defence Act 2002, the Civil Defence Board has assumed responsibility for Civil Defence at National level. Prior to this, the Civil Defence function at national level was the responsibility of the Minister for Defence and was normally delegated as a specific function to the Minister of State and administered by the Department of Defence.

Civil Defence is an organisation comprising of approximately 6000 members who voluntarily make themselves available in their spare time. Much of this time is devoted to attending classes to train for situations which is hoped will not happen in real life.
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The classes are in many disciplines during this training period. The skills which they require include First Aid, Search and Rescue, Fire Fighting, Boating Techniques, Radiation Monitoring, Radio Communications and Welfare Provision.

Civil Defence operates under legislation that includes the Air Raid Precautions Act 1939, Air Raid Precautions Amendment Act 1946,
Local Government Acts of 1941 to 2001, various Statutory Instruments and the Civil Defence Act 2002.

The Civil Defence Bill was passed by the Dáil on 26th March 2002. The Bill was signed into Law by the President on Friday 12th April 2002 and subsequently became known as the Civil Defence Act 2002.

The Civil Defence Act 2002 is the most important piece of Civil Defence legislation to be enacted in over 50 years. Following on from this legislation a new State Authority known as the Civil Defence Board was established to manage and develop Civil Defence at national level.

Joining the Civil Defence
Civil Defence Units are located in each county in the Republic of Ireland. To request information on becoming a Civil Defence volunteer, or have a member of Civil Defence contact you, please CLICK HERE

The International Civil Defence badge is worn by members of Civil Defence, to show they are part of a worldwide network of committed people, prepared to serve in their own country or overseas as part of practical disaster relief assistance. The international sign of Civil Defence is defined under Article 66, paragraph 4 of Schedule V to the Geneva Conventions Act.

Civil Defence is split into 32 administrative areas based largely on Local Authority administrative areas. Civil Defence services are delivered by Local Authorities for their own administrative area through their Civil Defence Officer/ Assistant Civil Defence Officer. These Officers are involved in planning, organising and recruiting for Civil Defence.

Ratra House - A Brief History
Ratra House was the home of Civil Defence since the organisation was established in 1950 until 2006 when the Head Quarters was decentralised to Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. The lodge premises, which is located beside Arás an Uachtaran (official residence of the President of Ireland) in the Phoenix Park, Dublin was named Ratra House by the first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde who retired to the lodge in 1945 from his Presidency. He named it after his native Ratra Park in Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon where he had done much of his writing.
Built c.1876 the lodge was normally occupied in British times by the Private Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and was known as the Little Lodge. The neighbouring Vice Regal Lodge (now Arus an Uachtaran) was the residence of the Viceroy, royal representative in Ireland.

In 1876 the then Duke of Marlborough was appointed Viceroy and brought his son, Lord Randolph Churchill, to reside at the Little Lodge as his Private Secretary. Lord Randolph was accompanied by his wife, Jennie and 2 year old son, Winston. Though he only spent 4 years there it has been claimed that the young Winston first developed his fascination with militarism from watching the many military parades pass by the Lodge.

After Independence the Lodge was taken over in the early 1920s by retinues attached to the Governors General who occupied the Vice Regal Lodge. From 1926 – 1940 the premises was occupied by the Adjutant Generalof the Irish Army, Maj. Gen. Brennan (later promoted to Chief of Staff). The Lodge was the last building within the Phoenix Park to have electricity installed in December, 1937!

In the search for a headquarters building for the Civil Defence organisation established in 1950 the Department of Defence decided on the then named Ratra House as the ideal location and the Civil Defence School was formally opened there on 18 June, 1951. An external training range adjacent to the main building (with a sign pointing to “Ballybruskar” – the town of the rubble) was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1952/3 at a cost of £7,950. Syndicate rooms were added in 1955 and a new lecture theatre to cater for the expanding organisation was added in 1963/4 costing over £22,000.
Down Ratra Road
“DOWN RATRA ROAD – Fifty Years of Civil Defence in Ireland” by Padraic O’Farrell. Published by The Stationery Office, Dublin. © Government of Ireland 2000.

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