National Council Member's Page
To: RNA Scottish Area13th June 2018
From: Shipmate Ian Irvin
National Council Member Scottish Area
Re: Report to RNA Scottish Area Meeting 16th June 2018
I attended the RNA National Conference in Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin, last weekend and I am pleased to say that it was an excellent Conference. We, in Scottish Area, had clearly set the bar quite high following our Conference last year in Perth, but I am pleased to say that our Irish Shipmates in Area 12 more than lived up to the challenge that we had set. The Conference, in the end, was well attended and it was well received by all who were there. Cost was clearly a factor and the Wetherspoons down the road played host to Shipmates more so than the bar in the hotel, for obvious reasons. The hotel itself was excellent and, after the Conference, we were hosted by the Irish Navy aboard the Le Eithne, a patrol vessel, which the Irish Government had very kindly sent to Dun Laoghaire as a mark of respect to the RNA, which I think set the tone for the goodwill that was clearly on display between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. We had two key guests at the Conference itself, being Senator Neale Richmond, and Rear Admiral Mark Mellett. The Senator is a key member of the Brexit team representing Ireland and I was really impressed by his respectful approach to our wider relationship, indeed he made clear that, no matter what, Ireland would always be our closest friend, and that sentiment was certainly borne out during the weekend. I learned, only since the recent visit of the Queen to Ireland, that many Irish men and women who had served with the British Armed Forces were unable to take pride in their Service, but this has now changed and I was amazed at the number of people who clearly demonstrated a deep affection for the UK, indeed I now see us as one people governed over by two different, but very close, governments. Admiral Mellett gave us a very good update about the Irish Navy, who are soon to get some new ships which are being built for them in the UK. Their Navy now has a deep sea capability and they have been working with us, and our allies, in the humanitarian effort in the Mediterranean. They are a small country, with a small Navy, but they are a close ally, that’s for sure.
The Gala Dinner was excellent and we were entertained by a harpist during the meal and then by some young Irish dancers. I sat beside an interesting couple from the RAF Association and earlier in the day the lady had been in the Guinness Book of Records taking part, with 2,506 other ladies, in the world’s largest skinny dip. They raised over 250,000 Euros for cancer research. Bob Coburn had gifted the world’s biggest hip flask as a gift to Paul Quinn earlier in the year and Paul filled it up with three and a half bottles of Pusser’s Rum, which was then passed round the assembled Shipmates and friends at the Gala Dinner. Nice one.
The Church Service on the Sunday was very good. It was held in a former Church, now converted into a Naval Museum, and Conference was closed on a high note, indeed after the Service we all went down to the key side to see the Le Eithne slip and proceed. I found it quite emotional seeing all of the RNA former sailors waving their fellow mariners out to sea.
The Conference also gave us an opportunity to say our farewells to Paul Quinn, albeit that he will remain on board until the end of the year, but it also gave us a chance to meet with Captain Bill Oliphant, his successor. Bill is currently Captain of the RN Naval Base at Portsmouth and he leaves the mob in late September and starts with the RNA in November, attending some appropriate courses in between. Paul will be a hard act to follow but I think we have a winner will Bill Oliphant who is, as it happens, a fellow Scot from Fife.
The Conference itself was quite straightforward with nothing unduly contentious.
The National Council had proposed a motion, and a change to the Royal Charter, allowing Merchant Navy holders of the Veterans Badge to join the RNA. These mariners are only entitled to the badge if they have served in a conflict zone and the mood of the Conference was that by supporting the Royal Navy in this way they should be entitled to join the RNA.
The National Council also proposed a motion to set up special interest branches, such as the RNA Biker’s Branch. Conference approved the motion and the existence of the RNA Biker’s branch was thus confirmed and, as an aside, it is now the biggest branch in the RNA (details from Bernie). There is talk of the new General Secretary setting up a Rugby Branch, but that might just be speculation. As an aside I suspect that the RNA Bikers Branch would have won a prize for new recruits, but unfortunately they were not eligible until after Conference had approved the necessary.
Conference also approved the 2020 Conference going to Liverpool.
There was a branch motion seeking to establish a study group to look into control of subscriptions, and other admin functions being managed centrally. This topic resulted in heated debate and my sense is that Shipmates would, by and large, prefer to see the status quo continue but, to be fair, the motion was about looking into the matter and, as such, the motion was passed, albeit by a slight margin and the resultant study group will report to next year’s Conference.
There had also been a proposal put forward to hold Conference every other year, with a social function being held around the time of the bi-annual parade, and a more modest AGM being held in Portsmouth on the year when there was to be no Conference. The National Council agreed to take soundings, which was done by means of a brief debate at Conference, but the idea was not taken forward. The strongly held view was that the AGM, which we must hold, goes hand in hand with Conference which, in turn, goes hand in hand with the social side of the RNA. That said, it is good that Shipmates feel confident enough to raise this sort of issue even if, in the end, they find themselves in the minority.
There was also a piece of business at Conference confirming my appointment as Honorary Treasurer for the RNA, so next year I'll have my own seat.....................
I also attended the Finance Committee Meeting and National Council Meeting on the Friday prior to Conference, indeed both were held at the Royal Irish Yacht Club down at the harbour, which was a superb venue. Aside from the above matters discussed at Conference the following points are also worthy of note arising from these meetings.
There was some debate about proposing that the RNA 'adopt' HMS Prince of Wales, the argument for this being a chance to associate ourselves with such a prestigious vessel, but the argument against clearly being that why should the RNA favour HMS Prince of Wales against other Ships in the Fleet. It transpires that the City of Bristol is going to adopt the Ship and that the local RNA branch will be part of this venture, and so what we are now looking to perhaps do is maybe affiliate ourselves with the Ship, which is perhaps a slightly different approach. Either way nothing specific was agreed and the matter remains under review.
The RNA is also looking at setting up an App which would be linked to certain sections of the web site, indeed we have identified suitable digital input person to allow this to happen. We have grabbed the name 'Jackopedia', which I think is inspiring, as our proposed App, and the hope is that the serving RN might also have input into this. We'll see what unfolds.
National Council also discussed the Jutland Wood Project which, to an extent, has slightly 'gone off the boil'. The intention with the Jutland Wood is to remember the loss of Shipmates at the Battle of Jutland with the aim of planting a wood with 6,097 trees, one for every British Sailor lost in the battle. The trees have been sourced and the intention is to plant them during the period from November 2018 to March 2019. It seems that the planting is actually quite straightforward and the hope is to create a wood, rather than several lines of trees. The wood itself will be near Epsom in Surrey, although quite why it is there is something I am not sure about. There will be contractors available, but the plan is to get, at a national level, Sea Cadets, plus Part 2 RN trainees, plus as many RNA Shipmates and their families as feel able to turn up, doing so over a weekend, to plant the Jutland Wood. There will be a fairly long walk in from the road to the Jutland Wood so there will be many Shipmates who could be challenged by such an undertaking, but I am sure they could assist elsewhere. Either way the charity, being the Woodland Trust, would like to work with the RNA to make this into an event, and a meaningful one at that. Discussions are ongoing but it is currently looking as though this will all take place in March 2019 and I am sure that, in due course, further detail will be forthcoming.
The final point is to note that there is a vacancy in the Standing Orders Committee, which is the body in the RNA that takes care of our procedures and ensures that Conference is run in accordance with our Rules under our Royal Charter.
All in all it was a great Conference and, alongside Perth, they have raised the bar for Shipmates running next year's Conference, which will be at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire on 7th June 2019 to 9th June 2019. We will all be in the one venue, close the major road and rail links, and it is shaping up to be great Conference.
Shipmate Ian Irvin
Royal Naval Association
National Council Member Scottish Area
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Scottish Area National Council Member Shipmate Ian Irvin,
City of Edinburgh Branch
Deputy Scottish Area National Council Member Shipmate Bernard McPhillips,
Rosyth & West Fife Branch
The purpose of this page is to provide a platform for the Scottish NCM/DNCM to provide information/Reports that they feel will be of interest to the RNA Members whom they represent on the National Council..