Ex-Defence Forces members criticise failure to retain skilled officers

Ger Aherne claims the Government is not committed to the organisation

Ex-Defence Forces members criticise failure to retain skilled officers

The Defence Forces conduct mission readiness exercises in 2016 | Image: Defences Forces

Concerns are being raised about the failure to retain specialist skilled officers in the Defence Forces.

It has come from a retired Brigadier-General, who has been speaking to Newstalk Breakfast.

Ger Aherne claims the problem is putting the "security of the State and its citizens at risk".

Another retired member, Commandant Tom Barry, is also voicing concerns.

He says shortages are happening right across the organisation.

And he says while movning around is part of the job, he was moved three times in five years to simply fill gaps.

He is also pointing to the example of flooding crises in recent years, when the army was called in to help.

He says it would be hard to sustain the management of that situation if it happened again.

"I felt that that the organisation was completely under-resourced.

"I was asked to manage a number of facilities in my role with 50% of the staff, which led to a huge amount of frustration.

"That's from a civil engineering point of view, right down to the trade on the ground - the maintenance staff on the ground.

"I moved three times in five years between Haulbowline, Cork city and then in Dublin and it put a huge strain on my family life.

"And I understand that when I joined the organisation that was part of the deal...but in this situation it was done because of lack of resources.

"You've lost engineer officers who would be the emergency managers on the ground in those situations, and you can't replace that.

"And the idea that recruitment is going to change that in the short-term is completely flawed".

While retired Brigadier-General Ger Aherne claims there is no commitment to the Defence Forces from the Government.

"The issue here is the minister and the Department of Defence - who...have the sole responsibility for strategic human resources in the Defence Forces.

"Have they a commitment to retention of specialists? My answer to that is an emphatic no."

It comes after it was reveled staff shortages may have led to missing helicopter Rescue 116 being sent on its mission off the Mayo coast.

"In 2015, in recognition of this retention challenge of pilots in the Air Corps there were two groups sat to produce board reports.

"Two reports in the one year, and they made recommendations.

"To date, two years afterwards, there has been no action on any of those recommendations".

"In the last week in response to this, Minister for State Paul Kehoe kept repeating the script that was written for him by the Department of Defence - that we're losing specialist officers because of the rising economy.

"That is not the reality - the reality is that it is dissatisfaction with the terms and conditions of service."

The Defence Forces say 28 cadets are undergoing various stages of Air Corps cadetship to become pilots, with eight due to graduate later this year.

But Mr Aherne says it is not as simple as that: "It will take an additional minimum of 18 months - that's the summer of 2019 - for any one of those eight (cadets) to be able to sit in a co-pilot seat of either a Casa fixed-wing aircraft or a helicopter".