Defence Forces losing staff at increasing rate

Exit of 119 staff in 2018 largest in nearly decade as report on pay to be considered

The fall-off in the number of personnel serving in the Defence Forces is escalating despite efforts to recruit a record level of new entrants.

The Irish Times has learned some 731 personnel left last year when 612 new recruits joined the Army, Navy and Air Corps.

That net loss of 119 personnel in 2018 was the largest for almost a decade and comes at a time when numbers in the Defence Forces had already fallen to a record low.

The new figures emerged as the Government faced strong pressure on Tuesday after the former head of the elite Army Ranger Wing said the Defence Forces were being “dismantled and demoralised”.


Retired Comdt Cathal Berry told The Irish Times the sense of absolute betrayal (among serving personnel) was palpable, that poor pay levels were driving out members and that the Minster of State for Defence Paul Kehoe was out of his depth.

‘Pay restoration’

Speaking in Brussels, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said a report by the Public Service Pay Commission on the Defence Forces would be considered by Cabinet in two weeks.

“We have an agreement with public sector unions that applies to the Defence Forces as well and that provides for pay restoration by the end of next year and that is being implemented,” he said.

It is understood the commission in its report said it was constrained by its terms of reference from the Government from recommending any changes of existing core pay levels.

The report proposes an increase of 10 per cent in the military service allowance, which ranges from € 42-€123 per week. This is paid to all ranks up to colonel.

The report also suggests that cuts imposed several years ago to other payments such as security duty and patrol duty allowance for naval service personnel should be reversed. These payments are currently worth about €48 per day and this could be increased to about €53 to €55.

The report is also likely to suggest that if there was to be a general review of pay in the public service, this process should look specifically at the Defence Forces.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times