The Chief Of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Dermot Earley, who is currently on sick leave, has indicated his intention to retire from the Defence Forces on a date to be announced in the coming weeks.

The General has been suffering from a debilitating illness for several months and is not due to retire until next spring.

He is a prominent figure in the GAA. He played senior football for many years with his native Roscommon and later went on to manage Roscommon as well as Kildare, where he now lives.

General Earley was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) in a private ceremony in the Curragh Camp during the week.

The medal was presented to General Earley on Wednesday by the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, in a ceremony which was attended by General Earley's family.

The Minister for Defence, Tony Kileen, TD and Deputy Chiefs of Staff, Major General Dave Ashe and Major General Sean McCann were also in attendance.

The citation for the medal reads: ‘For outstanding qualities of leadership, resource and devotion to duty as Chief of Staff in successfully commanding the Defence Forces for his period as Chief of Staff and for his distinguished service with the United Nations.’

His duties are currently being performed by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) Major General Dave Ashe.