Concern over drop-off in Defence Forces numbers

Just over 9,000 officers are left in the permanent Defence Force

Concern over drop-off in Defence Forces numbers

Members of the Irish Army at the Royal Hospital, Kilmaingham during a guard of honour | Image: Rollingnews/Bryan Meade

Fianna Fáil's defence spokesperson has expressed concern about the continuing fall-off in Defence Forces personnel.

Lisa Chambers says new figures released to her reveal the numbers serving in the permanent Defence Forces stand at 9,044 members as of May 31st 2017.

The Defence Forces has an approved establishment strength of 9,500.

However Ms Chambers says despite a significant recruitment campaign during 2016, there are fewer members now then there were at the end of 2015.

"The Taoiseach, who is also Minister for Defence, may make claims in the Dáil that more people are applying to join the Defence Forces than there are positions available, but that simply shows the extent of his denial on this matter", she said.

"Despite some 590 general service recruits and 100 cadets being recruited in 2016, and more than 100 further general service recruits joining earlier in 2017, there is still more than 100 fewer Defence Forces personnel now than there was at the end of 2015."

She told Newstalk Breakfast this needs to be addressed.

"Each time I raise the issue of retention, I'm met with a very stock response in terms of the recruitment process.

"The recruitment process is fine, it's constant, we are taking in people but we're losing people at an even faster rate and we're not replacing them.

"It's worth also noting that when you recruit somebody new, they're not up to the standard of the person that has left.

"It takes a number of years to train a person, even as a general recruit.

"We know that clearly pay and conditions are a problem... and we know this because the representative associations have told us this."

Gerard Guinan is general-secretary at PDFORRA. He said the gap in numbers could be obvious if they are not filled.

"They will (notice) if we're not able to put ships at sea, if we're not able to put aircraft into the air.

"I think this is a short-sighted view that a lot of people take that 'what would happen if the Defence Forces was gone?' Plenty would happen.

"Our territorial waters are protected by the Irish Navy, our Air Corp carry out flights on a daily basis, they have service agreements with the HSE - only last week the Air Corps was flying people off the top of Croagh Patrick who had had heart attacks.

"Yes, you would miss us if we weren't there".