Over the weekend of 6-8 October 2017, the Republic of Ireland Branch hosted the European Area Conference at the Marine Hotel in Sutton. Representatives from branches in France, Germany, Guernsey, Jersey, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland joined the Republic of Ireland Branch for the event.
The Conference started in a lively fashion on Friday evening with a display of Irish Dancing. The enjoyment and enthusiam was so infectious that we managed to get three Air Marshals up to join in! The consumption of prosecco did not hinder their atonishingly accomplished footwork.
The serious business of the Conference took place on Saturday. We were delighted to welcome His Excellency, Robin Barnett CMG, the British Ambassador to open the Conference. Although Brexit and its effects on members living outside the United Kingdom was high on the agenda, we were unable to reach any major conclusions because of the uncertainty of what the outcomes of the current negotiations will be. Minutes will be circulated as soon as they become available.
Frank Brien, our Standard Bearer, was awarded an Area President’s Certificate and badge for his outstanding work over many years, representing the Branch at formal and informal events. Tony Breen, another of our members, was awarded the Wally Marriott Trophy in recognition of the huge efforts he puts into supporting the Branch’s social gatherings and visiting veterans in his local area. We also received a Certificate for contributing £7,500 to the Wings Appeal in 2016/17. The Chairman, Pete McWilliams, would like to congratulate Frank and Tony and also to thank everyone who gave so generously to make the Wings Appeal contribution possible.
Some participants later took the planned excursion to Malahide Castle and gardens. Thankfully, the weather was kind to us all and everyone enjoyed the trip.
On Saturday evening, the hotel provided delicious finger food and more prosecco to whet our appetite for the Gala Dinner to follow. Once again, we were delighted that His Excellency Robin Barnett returned to join us for the dinner. The food was good, the drink flowed and the ‘craic was mighty’, all aided by a five-piece band.
The Conference was brought to a close by an ecumenical service of thanksgiving and remembrance at Glasnevin Cemetery. The service was conducted by Fr. Paddy Jones and Rev. James Carson. The standards were marched into the Chapel to the sound of the Royal Air Force March Past. We sang “God is Our Refuge” to the tune of the Dambusters. The standards were then marched, led by a piper, to the Cross of Sacrifice. Prayers were offered, followed by the the Last Post, dipping of standards, minute’s silence and Reveille. Our Branch Vice Chairman, John Connolly, read the RAF Association Dedication, followed by the Exhortation. At this point, the Branch Chairman invited the RAF Association European Area President, Air Marshal Philip Sturley, to lay a wreath on behalf of the European Area. John Connolly laid a wreath on behalf of our Branch. The Sud-Ouest Branch (France) also laid a wreath. To conclude the ceremony, the piper played a lament and there was a final blessing from the clergy.
Thank you to everyone who attended and who assisted and supported us in any way. It was a huge honour and privilege for our Branch to host this Conference and to celebrate our 70th year.