Head of Defence Forces elected first Irish chair of EU’s highest military body

Seán Clancy takes over key post at time of increased regional and global instability and insecurity, attaining four-star general rank

The head of the Defence Forces, Lieut Gen Seán Clancy, has been elected as the next chair of the European Union Military Committee (EUMC), the highest military body within the union.

The EUMC is composed of the chiefs of defence of the 27 member states, who are regularly represented by their permanent military representatives.

It is a three-year, full-time role and is the first time that the committee will have an Irish chair.

He will take up this new role in May 2025, taking over from the incumbent chair, Gen Robert Brieger of the Austrian Armed Forces, but will continue to serve as Chief of Staff until that time.


It means Lieut Gen Clancy will be promoted to the rank of a four-star general, the highest grade any military officer has had in about a century. There has not been an officer of such rank in the Irish Defence Forces since the 1920s, when Michael Collins, Richard Mulcahy and Eoin O’Duffy held an equivalent rank, although they are not referred to as such in historical records.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin said he warmly welcomed Lieut Gen Clancy’s election at a crucial time for Europe, with increased regional and global instability and insecurity.

“He brings with him almost 40 years of distinguished military service with the Irish Defence Forces,” Mr Martin said, acknowledging Lieut Gen Clancy’s range of defence experience and his skills in partnership building.

“He is ideally suited to apply his abilities to the role of chair of the EUMC at such a crucial time for the military pillar of the EU’s Common Security and defence policy.”

The EU’s Military Commttee is the forum for military consultation and cooperation between the EU member states in the field of conflict prevention and crisis management.

It directs all military activities within the EU framework, in particular the planning and execution of military missions and operations under the Common Security and Defence Policy and the development of military capabilities.

Based on consensus, it provides military direction to the European Union Military Staff.

The chair of the EUMC acts as the spokesperson for the committee, giving voice to military expertise embodied in the committee.

On a regular basis, the chair participates in the political and security committee meetings, giving military advice and making recommendations to the group.

The chair also acts as the military adviser to the high representative of the union for foreign affairs and security policy , who heads the European External Action Service (EEAS).

This extends to attending Council meetings with defence and security implications. The chair also acts as the primary point of contact for the Operation Commanders of the EU’s military operations.

The appointment of the chair of the EUMC occurs every three years with each member state having the opportunity to nominate a chair.

The other nominees for this election were from Poland and Slovenia. Voting is conducted by secret ballot with each member state casting a first and second preference.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent