Applicants with visible tattoos cannot make their mark on the Defence Forces, Dáil told

Minister for Defence says tattoos above the shirt collar prohibited

Applicants with visible tattoos are turned down by the Defence Forces, the Dáil was told. Minister for Defence Alan Shatter said that a current regulation provided that "tattooing above the collar of the shirt is prohibited'', adding that it applied to all personnel joining the Permanent Defence Reserve and the Reserve Defence Force and was in line with requirements in other countries.

“The purpose of this requirement is to prevent the induction of personnel who subsequently could not be deployed on ceremonial duties which form part of the functions of military personnel,” Mr Shatter added. “In particular, I am advised that the reverse arms drill movement requires the tilting of the head forward and downwards on completion of the drill movement, which exposes more of the neck than is normally the case.”

He was replying to Independent TD Mick Wallace who suggested an appeal mechanism be put in place. The Minister said the military authorities had advised it was at the physical fitness testing stage of the selection process for recruitment that a determination on the matter of a tattoo was made.

When an applicant was found to be ineligible due to tattooing above the collar of the shirt, they were informed both orally and in writing, he said. “From time of being advised, an applicant has 72 hours to make it known, either orally or in writing, that he or she wishes to appeal the decision,’’ Mr Shatter added. “A senior officer subsequently meets the applicant and makes a final decision on the matter.’’


The Minister said there were no plans to review the admissibility criteria on the visibility of tattoos. Mr Wallace referred to an applicant from Wexford town who originally passed the test in Cork but did not make it to the final list.

“When he went for the test last year, he passed the interview, fitness test and medical test, but on the second occasion it was deemed his tattoo was too high, even though he showed me pictures in a still position and with his head tilted forward where the tattoo was not visible,’’ he added.

Mr Shatter said he would seek a response from the Defence Forces on the individual case to which he referred.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times