Defence Forces seeks recruits amid concern over troop numbers

Recruitment competition opens for entrants to Irish Army, Air Corps and Naval Service

A recent report commissioned by the Defence Forces found it is now at a “critical point” with staff numbers well below the target of 9,500. Photograph: Alan Betson

A recent report commissioned by the Defence Forces found it is now at a “critical point” with staff numbers well below the target of 9,500. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Defence Forces has opened a new recruitment competition amid concern over dwindling troop numbers in the military.

Announcing the recruitment drive on Wednesday, Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe said the move “reflects the Government’s commitment to meeting the Permanent Defence Forces strength targets”.

A recent report commissioned by the Defence Forces found it is now at a “critical point” with staff numbers well below the target of 9,500.

The report, compiled by researchers at the University of Limerick, noted that figures for unit sizes were often embellished as the absence of members on leave, long-term training courses or overseas missions was not taken into account.

Mr Kehoe said previous recruitment campaigns will deliver more than 800 new Defence Forces personnel by the end of this year, although it is not known exactly how many new staff are proposed to be taken on as part of the latest wave.

“This general service recruitment campaign will build upon the successes of previous recruitment campaigns from which it is expected that just over 800 new personnel will have been inducted into the Permanent Defence Force by the end of 2017,” he said, adding: “As this will deplete existing panels, it is now appropriate that we initiate a new campaign in order to provide for the induction of further personnel in 2018.”

Eligible

Those interested in applying have until 11.59pm on Friday, October 27th, to do so. Applicants must be aged between 18 and 25 years in order to be eligible for the Irish Army and Air Corps, or between 18 and 27 to apply for the Naval Service.

PDForra, the representative association for Permanent Defence Forces personnel, has been critical of the ongoing staffing shortages in the organisation, with the retirement of experienced staff said to be placing a major strain on those left to run the force.

Mr Kehoe’s announcement did not contain any reference to recruitment efforts for reservists, following a warning from the Reserve Defence Forces Representative Association that the reserve force could cease to exist within months due to a lack of personnel.

The association’s general secretary Neil Richardson told an Oireachtas foreign affairs and defence joint committee earlier this year that just 60 reservists were trained between September 2015 and December 2016, leaving a net reduction in strength for the 2,000-member force.

Reserve force

Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers also put forward a Dáil motion in April calling for an increase in staffing levels for the Permanent Defence Forces to 10,500, along with a return to the establishment strength of the reserve force to 4,000.

The report mentioned poor pay for Army privates as being among the main demoralising influences on staff, with many unable to get by without availing of family income support.

Mr Kehoe pointed out that newly-qualified three-star privates and Naval Service equivalents can expect a minimum annual salary of €27,000, inclusive of military service allowance, on completion of the initial 30-week training regime.