Defence Forces ‘retention crisis’ with fewer personnel than at end of 2015

FF spokeswoman says Government needs to ‘get its head out of the sand and address issue’

There are fewer members of the Defence Forces now than there were two years ago despite a significant recruitment campaign, according to Fianna Fáil.

The party's defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said that, despite 590 general service recruits and 100 cadets being appointed in 2016, and a further 100 general service recruits this year there are more than 100 fewer Defence Forces personnel now than at the end of 2015.

Ms Chambers claimed there was “clearly a retention crisis and it’s time the Government finally got its head out of the sand and addressed it”.

The Mayo TD made the allegation after she received a parliamentary reply from Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe to a question about the strength of the Defence Forces


Mr Kehoe said the Government was committed to maintaining the strength of the Defence Forces at 9,500 personnel, but there are currently 9,044 members.

Permanent force

The Minister said the 2015 White Paper on Defence recommended a permanent force of 7,520 Army, 886 Air Corps and 1,094 Naval Service personnel.

Mr Kehoe added that “with the support of the chief of staff and within the resources available, it is intended to retain the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and overseas”.

But criticising the Government, Ms Chambers said the Taoiseach, who is also Minister for Defence, “may make claims in the Dáil that more people are applying to join the Defence Forces than there are positions available, but that simply shows the extent of his denial on this matter”.

The figures show a total of 7,254 Army personnel including 6,778 men and 476 women. There are 1,087 Naval Service personnel, of whom 65 are women and 703 Air Corps members including 669 men and 34 women.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times