Defence Forces chief to be called before committee to discuss recruitment of women

Figures show out of 617 female applicants this year, only one has been inducted into organisation

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Seán Clancy is to be asked to appear before an Oireachtas committee to discuss recruitment after it emerged that only one woman has been inducted into the organisation this year.

The Irish Times reported on Friday that out of 617 female applicants this year, only one has been inducted.

Charlie Flanagan, chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, said he was concerned about the figures and would be inviting Lieut Gen Clancy to come before the committee to discuss the matter after the Oireachtas summer recess.

“I look forward to hearing from himself and his team in early September,” he said.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there was a “cultural issue” within the Defence Forces and that he was “worried” about the the low numbers of women coming into the organisation.

“If you think about it, we have just over 7,000 men in our Defence Forces at the moment,” he said. “If we had half that number of women, 3,500, our Defence Forces would be fully staffed and fully complemented. So the fact that we find it so hard to recruit women into the Defence Forces is at the core of the problem in my view.”

Figures released by the Department of Defence to Independent TD Violet Anne Wynne show that of the 617 applications from women for the Defence Forces this year, 246 did not attend psychometric training and 151 failed the psychometric test, which measures individual differences in personality, motivation, aptitude and ability through questionnaires. Some 45 applicants did not attend a fitness test and interview, while 15 failed the medical or fitness test.

Mr Varadkar said he “did not know enough” about psychometric testing to comment on it. “But I think there is a cultural problem in our Defence Forces and we know some of the issues that have arisen, and that has to change. And we’re working on changing that with the Chief of Staff and his team,” he told reporters in Co Louth.

Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh, who is also a member of the committee, described it as a “terrible indictment of the recruitment process”.

“It is especially worrying in the context of the recent Women of Honour report and the importance of ensuring an appropriate culture and environment within the Defence Forces,” she said.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has previously said that the use of psychometric testing was paused in Naval Service recruitment for six months and the result of that pilot initiative will inform any decision on its future use.

Ms Wynne, who served as a member of the reserve Defence Forces for three years, said recent controversies about the treatment of women in the Defence Forces could have contributed to women deciding not to proceed with a career in the organisation.

In a written response to Ms Wynne, Mr Martin said that up to the end of May, seven women were inducted into the Defence Forces but six of those were from applications made last year.

He said that of the 617 women who applied to join the Defence Forces, 552 made viable applications. Only 63 of those viable applications are still “live” and being progressed, while one application was successfully progressed and resulted in the candidate being inducted. Another eight candidates withdrew their applications.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times