Two Kildare Veterans Tell Their Story

Two Kildare Veterans Tell Their Story

Two Kildare Veterans Tell Their Story

Interview with Sergeant Sharon McNamara and Sergeant Major Billy Redmond

On Friday 7 August we met up with two retired Kildare veterans to record their stories: Sergeant Sharon McNamara and Sergeant Major Billy Redmond.
Sharon comes from a long line of military service with grandfathers on both sides serving in the early days of Óglaigh na hÉireann / Irish Defence Forces. Growing up on the Curragh, joining the Amy was a natural progression. In 1981, a decision was made to recruit women under general enlistment. Along with forty other young ladies, Sharon found herself part of the Defence Forces first all-female recruit platoon. As this was a new chapter in the history of the Defence Forces Sharon had some enlightening stories to tell. At that time women could not serve in combat units. Even guard duties were off the list. This did not take long to change as Sharon explained: ‘in many ways we pioneered the way for those that came after us’. Sharon primarily served in the Administration School and the Curragh Command Headquarters. Retiring after 21 years’ service, Sharon now works for The Kerry Group in Naas.

Sergeant Sharon McNamara about life in the Defence Forces with the first all female platoon in 1981. (Photograph by John O’Byrne)

Sergeant Major Redmond is a well-known veteran from Kilcullen, who regularly writes and gives talks on his 45 years’ service in the Defence Forces. Billy joined in the late 1950s and served with the Signal and CIS Corps. Billy spent ten years on missions with the United Nations Peacekeeping, three tours in the Congo, two in Cyprus, and nine in South Lebanon. Billy’s first overseas tour was to the Congo with the 32nd Infantry Battalion and was able to give us insight how signallers operated in those harsh conditions. No smart phones back then, it was old style Morse Code. Impressively Billy can still tap out 22 words a minute.

Thank you to Jim Brady from ONE Ireland in Kildare for arranging the interviewees and to NC & JO’B Photography Studio & Gallery in Rathangan for the use of their facilities and support. Covid 19 safety precautions were observed during our interviews.

Sergeant Major Billy Redmond describing the situation in the Congo in the early 1960s. (Photograph by John O’Byrne)

This project is sponsored by County Kildare Heritage Office and Creative Ireland.

Posted in: County Kildare, Curragh Camp, Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veterans, Óglaigh na hÉireann, United Nations, United Nations Operation in the Congo

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