Sergeants should be allowed serve to older age, Defence Forces representative body argues

Current discharge age is 50 and senior non-commissioned officers at 56, a system Pdforra insists ‘does not make sense’

Sergeants and senior noncommissioned officers should be allowed serve to an older age according to the Defence Forces representative body which has also called for a swift introduction of recommended pay reforms.

Pdforra, the association representing 6,500 enlisted members of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, said ambitions unveiled in Budget 2023 to bolster recruitment could not be achieved without such changes.

“We have ships that cannot go to sea for want of crews [and] aircraft that are having to be serviced away from the Air Corps,” said Pdforra general secretary Gerard Guinan.

“Our members have endured years of hardship with report after report and commission after commission reporting on the perilous state of the Defence Forces.”


At its annual conference in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, Pdforra passed a motion calling on the Government to fully implement the findings of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces in relation to pay and conditions.

The Commission report concluded that Ireland was “clearly an outlier, compared to our peers in western and northern Europe, in relation to defence expenditure”. It made several findings in the area of remuneration and benefits although not on specific rates of pay and allowances.

Pdforra said that, while welcoming commitments in Budget 2023 for 400 additional Defence Forces members, such a commitment would prove “unattainable in the absence of movement on pay and allowance rates”.

Specifically, it is seeking reform of seagoing allowances and the introduction of long service increments for enlisted personnel, among other measures.

‘Urgent engagement’

The association is to debate a motion calling on Government to discuss contract terms for personnel who enlisted since 1994 and who are now sergeants, senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and technicians.

It is seeking some movement on age related service. Currently, sergeants are discharged at the age of 50 and senior NCOs at 56, a system it insists “does not make sense”.

“Our association is calling for urgent engagement on those ranks who have yet to receive security on their contract terms,” said Pdforra president Mark Keane.

The association believes that difficulties filling approximately 400 sergeant vacancies are related to pay and conditions, primarily security of tenure.

“These personnel are both physically and medically fit and must undergo fitness and medical examinations on a yearly basis, which ensures their ability to perform duties,” Mr Keane said.

“It is ludicrous to suggest that we will get an additional 400 personnel into the Defence Forces this year, as announced in the Budget, when we continue to treat personnel with such utter contempt.”

The Department of Defence did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times