Seán Clancy appointed Defence Forces chief of staff

Former search and rescue pilot will take up role following Mark Mellett’s retirement

Maj Gen Seán Clancy has been appointed as the incoming chief of staff of the Defence Forces, becoming the first Air Corps officer to hold the role.

The former search-and-rescue pilot will take up the position following the retirement of Vice Admiral Mark Mellett on September 29th. He was recommended for the position by Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, and his nomination will now go to President Michael D Higgins.

Mr Coveney congratulated him on his appointment and also thanked Vice Admiral Mellett for his “outstanding contribution” as chief of staff over the past six years.

“On behalf of the Government I would like to wish him well in his future endeavours and to thank him for his hard work and commitment over many years of service in the Defence Forces.”

There had been proposals within the Government to put Vice Admiral Mellett forward for the position of chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the highest military position within the European Union.

However, according to sources, the proposal was dropped when it became clear other EU countries wanted an appointment from Nato member states. Last month Austrian chief of defence staff Gen Robert Brieger took up the role.

Maj Gen Clancy has been deputy chief of staff since April 2019, in charge of support. He was responsible for areas such as logistics, human resources, transport, engineering and military policing.

Change and innovation

A Department of Defence statement described Maj Gen Clancy as a "driver of change and a champion for innovation" who played a central role in the development of Ireland's first Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012.

The service, which is based in Custume Barracks in Athlone, is credited with dramatically reducing response times in serious medical incidents.

He co-authored the Defence Forces leadership doctrine, published in 2016. He subsequently led the team that developed the current vision and values-based strategy for the Defence Forces after the publication of the White Paper on defence.

Maj Gen Clancy, who is from Mitchelstown in Cork, joined the Defence Forces as a cadet in 1984. He held a number of senior roles, including squadron commander, wing commander, senior staff officer operations and senior staff officer personnel before being appointed general officer commanding the Air Corps in 2017.

He spent a considerable period of his career as a search-and-rescue pilot. He has 4,600 hours' flight time as both a pilot and instructor on fixed wing and helicopters, including in the AW139 helicopter. He was the commander of the crew that received the Marine Medal for Meritorious Service in 2002.

The married father of three served for a year with the European Union Force in Bosnia as the military adviser to the force commander, and spent two years as air adviser to the permanent element of Shirbrig, the UN standby brigade.

He holds a bachelor of science degree from Trinity College Dublin and a masters in military leadership and defence studies from NUI Maynooth. He is also a graduate of the Defence Forces Command and Staff College.