‘Optimistic figures’ show 7 years for Defence Forces to reach full strength – Raco

Turn-over rate is much higher than Government figures, says military officers group

It will take seven years for the Defence Forces to reach full strength based on the Government's current "optimistic" assessment, according to the representative body for military officers.

The Department of Public Expenditure has assessed the long term turn-over rate of the Defence Forces at 6.4 per cent. Taking this figure, the Defence Forces will not reach their establishment strength of 9,500 until 2026, the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) has said.

But Raco has also said says this figure has little basis in reality as it is based on the sixteen year period between 2002 and 2018. It does not illustrate the dramatic rise in the turnover rate which has occurred in recent years because of the Defence Force’s recruitment and retention crisis which now stands at 10.3 per cent, according to Raco.

Raco estimates if the 10.3 per cent turnover rate is maintained the Defence Forces will never return to full strength and will result in the number of personnel dropping to about 7,500 by 2030.

Even if the rate drops to 7.4 per cent it will take at least another 31 years for the Defence Forces to reach their establishment strength, Raco general secretary Conor King said.

The association is to hold its biennial National Conference on Monday where its members will vote on whether to accept the report of the Public Service Pay Commission which recommends certain increases in pay and allowances.

The recommendations have been met with disappointment by officers and enlisted personnel. The Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDForra) has said they are unlikely to be enough to stem the degradation of Defence Forces numbers and capabilities.

Mr King said the problem has only worsened since the release of the report in July. The current turnover rate of 10.3 per cent is up from nine per cent at the start of the year and 8.1 per cent last year.

Almost 100 personnel left the Defence Forces in June when details of the commission’s recommendations leaked in the media, he said.

Mr King said he met with Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Leo Varadkar on Thursday evening and told him of the scale of the problem. "I told him we're not doing enough, it's not going to cut it."

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times