‘I was born into the Defence Forces. I grew up in it’

Breda Graham speaks to the Irish Defence Force’s first female Veteran Support Officer of its charity Organisation of National ex-service personnel
‘I was born into the Defence Forces. I grew up in it’

Audra Larkin, ONE’s new Veteran Support Officer for the Cork and Kerry region highlighted the importance of the charity to those who need its support.

THE organisation of national ex-personnel (ONE), was formed at the Mansion House in Dublin on March 10, 1951.

The new organisation brought together the National Federation of Irish Ex-Servicemen and the Association of Regular Ex-Servicemen, which had emerged following demobilisation after the Emergency.

ONE was strictly non-political and non-sectarian and has remained so to this day.

A registered charity for veterans of the Irish Defence Forces, its primary objective is to support the needs of Irish veterans by the provision of accommodation to homeless veterans in its veterans’ homes and the provision of other advice and support to veterans through its nationwide network of branches and veterans’ support centres.

ONE’s services are available to all veterans of the Defence Forces and the organisation also facilitates homeless veterans from other countries living in Ireland from time to time.

ONE currently provides accommodation for approximately 51 veterans who otherwise would be homeless, in its four residential homes in Cobh, Athlone, Dublin, and Letterkenny.

In Cork, the veterans’ support centre in Cobh provides veterans with information, advice, someone to listen, and somewhere to meet with former comrades.

Described as a cross between advice centres and men’s/women’s sheds, it is hoped that through early intervention at these centres, social stresses and homelessness among veterans will be significantly reduced.

Speaking to The Echo, Audra Larkin, ONE’s new veteran support officer for the Cork and Kerry region, highlighted the importance of the charity to those who need its support.

“What’s important to highlight is that 99.9% of people transition from the Defence Forces into civilian life and are very happy and go on and do very productive things.

“It is that small percentage that we work with that finds the transition and the living hard.


“So, to sum up in a sentence what the ONE does, it provides an early intervention system to veterans who are struggling, to alleviate homelessness and the associated issues so that’s about building social capital in the community.”

Speaking about what her role entails, Ms Larkin said: “A veteran support officer essentially is case working, supporting mental health, supporting homelessness, supporting the transition into stable accommodation, and the ONE also provides counselling services, mental health support services, and really everything that affects the veteran, a VSO will pick that up.

“The ONE framework is what we call SCAR and this really sums up what a VSO does. That’s support, comradeship, advocacy, and remembrance, and that underpins the work that a VSO does.

“It’s a person-to-person role and it’s also about that advocacy piece as well and ensuring that they move on to stable accommodation and have stable services around them.”

Ms Larkin, who has many years of experience within the Defence Forces, said the wealth of knowledge she has gathered from the various roles will serve her well in her new role, and in turn, will help those who seek the charity’s support through her understanding of veterans’ needs.

“I’ve been in the Defence Forces my whole life. I was born into the Defence Forces. I grew up in the Defence Forces.

“All my uncles, my husband, and myself have all served in the Defence Forces under varying banners,” she said.


“It’s a family affair and I always say that in my life I have two families. I have my family family and I have my Defence Forces family.

“I’ve worked in the frontline for 20 years, I’ve worked in addiction services, so that coupled with my own experiences. I’ve been the daughter, I’ve been the wife, I’ve been all those things.

“I’ve had loved ones serve overseas and come home and so I have experienced all that and that absolutely means that I can bring that into this role.

“What’s critically important is that I have that shared language with veterans.

“To build those relationships, to have someone coming out of the Defence Forces and to be supported by somebody who understands the Defence Forces, who understands the same and speaks the same language.”

Speaking about being the first female veterans’ support officer for the ONE, she said: “For me, the ONE is a very progressive organisation, and their current strategic plan talks specifically about diversity, inclusion and equality and they are very aware of the importance of having female contact as well for female veterans.

“There are only three VSOs and it’s a relatively new role with the first VSOs coming into post only two years ago, so for me, I don’t see the female part, I see myself as part of a team of VSOs.

“Yes, we all have our expertise and our knowledge and by having a diverse workforce, it can only benefit the veterans.

“It’s about being able to see things as a VSO team from different angles or different viewpoints. It’s about being a service for the future,” she said.

Touching on ONE’s next venture, Ms Larkin said the charity is currently in the process of developing a facility in Cork City which is due to open later this year.

“Currently there are 38 branches to the charity all around the country and 25 veteran support centres and we currently have four homes housing 52 and a fifth to open in Cork city in the latter of 2023, so that will bring us up to 57 living spaces.”

Ms Larkin urged anyone who wants to talk or wants to seek further support from the ONE to visit one-veterans.org or to contact Ms Larkin via email at cork-kerryvso@ oneconnect.ie.

“I would like to encourage veterans to reach out. I know it can be very hard to reach out and ask for help but I want to assure them that it is a confidential, non-judgemental service and that they can reach out if they need anything,” she said.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

People holding phone with App

It's all about Cork!

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

It's all about Cork!

App Store LogoGoogle Play Logo

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Contact Us Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions

© Evening Echo Ltd, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork. Registered in Ireland: 523713

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more