Only one woman has been inducted into the Defence Forces this year out of 617 applicants amid concerns about psychometric testing.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said that the use of psychometric testing – which measures individual differences in personality, motivation, aptitude and ability through questionnaires – was paused in Naval Service recruitment for six months and the result of that pilot initiative will inform any decision on its use.
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.
Some 45 applicants did not attend a fitness test and interview, while 15 failed the medical or fitness test.
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 there.
“It cannot be disputed that public confidence in the Defence Forces has been completely eroded. We have seen various revelations from the Women of Honour group and others. It would not be outside the realms of possibility that this period of damage to public confidence would result in drop in recruits. But it is a hugely stark figure to see that only one woman would be inducted into the Defence Forces from this year’s applicants.”
In a written response to Ms Wynne, Mr Martin said that until the end of May this year, seven women were inducted into the Defence Forces, but six of those were from applications made in 2022.
He said that of the 617 women who applied to join the Defence Forces, 552 of those applications were viable.
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.
Mr Martin said that “reasons for the high attrition” includes a “high percentage of applicants that did not attend at the various induction stages or failed the psychometric, fitness or medical tests. In the case of non-shows, the Defence Forces have been proactive in attempting to rearrange times that are more suitable to the applicant.”
Ms Wynne said that in total, 291 women didn’t show up for testing, fitness, or medical appointments.
“Nearly 300 women decided to change their minds. While the Department of Defence said that they have been proactive in trying to reschedule, there is no evidence that they were successful in being able to do so. These applicants changed their minds and the important question is why,” she said.
On the issue of psychometric testing, Mr Martin said that military authorities continue to keep psychometric testing “under ongoing review to ensure it continues to effectively determine suitability for entry to the Defence Forces”.
“On that basis, psychometric testing in the Naval Service General Service recruitment was paused, on a pilot basis, for six months. An analysis of the revised approach will then take place and will inform future decisions on this process,” he said.
Ms Wynne said the high level of failure of psychometric testing warrants further investigation.
A spokeswoman for the Defence Forces said that the figure of 617 applicants includes all female entrants into the Defence Forces including cadets, direct entries, re-enlistment and all general service recruitment streams.
“The Defence Forces continues to keep psychometric testing and all other aspects of recruitment under constant review to ensure it continues to effectively determine suitability for entry into the Defence Forces. With regards psychometric testing, cognitive assessments are held to be both gender sensitive and minority conscious.”
It comes as the Women of Honour group again called for a full statutory inquiry to be held in public.
In July the Government agreed to establish a tribunal of inquiry to examine the effectiveness of the complaints processes in the Defence Forces around discrimination, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
The Tánaiste has said he is considering feedback received from a number of stakeholders in relation to the terms of reference for the inquiry. He plans to return to Cabinet in the autumn seeking approval for the terms of reference and the appointment of a judge to chair the tribunal.