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There are very, very few women in the Irish Army...

And none at all with rank more senior than lieutenant colonel.

Irish Army Lieutenant Marie Carrigy
Irish Army Lieutenant Marie Carrigy
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE DEFENCE FORCES currently have a gender imbalance of roughly 94% – 6% with males dominating.

No women whatsoever hold rank higher than that of lieutenant colonel in the Irish defence forces.

The information was released by defence minister Simon Coveney in response to a parliamentary question by Fine Gael TD for Kildare North Bernard Durkan.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities,” said Coveney in response to the question.

Women Numbers of women in the Irish Defence Forces Source: Oireachtas.ie

Click here to view a larger image.

Currently women make up just 6.1% of our Defence Forces’ strength.

This is not a new trend – the numbers of women in the Defence Forces have been relatively static since 2010 at least.

Tellingly, there are 48 men currently ranked at levels no enlisted women have managed to reach at present. 

Meanwhile, there are 125 men ranked as lieutenant colonel – with just three women sharing the same rank, or 2.3%, an enormous imbalance.

And the figures appear to be getting even worse – the 563 women mentioned above as at end 2014 has actually decreased to 553 as at end April 2015.

coveney Simon Coveney

The overall strength of the defence forces as such currently stands at 9,112, a deal short of the agreed stabilised strength of 9,500.

“It is intended that targeted recruitment will continue in 2015 and subsequent years to allow the Government meet this commitment in relation to the stabilised strength,” said Coveney.

Regarding the gender imbalance within the Defence Forces Coveney said:

I believe that a key issue in recruiting and retaining female personnel lies in societal perception and attitudes to female soldiers and officers. I am hopeful that through continued engagement and communication, this perception will change over time.

A number of specific initiatives have thus been implemented to increase ‘female participation’ in the Defence Forces:

  • The adjustment of physical standards for female applicants
  • Special consideration being paid to women as a target group for recruitment
  • A balanced composition between men and women on recruitment and selection boards
  • All promotions and career courses being open to both sexes on merit
  • A Gender Advisor being appointed to promote gender equality policies and training within the Defence Forces

Whether or not those initiatives can make any difference remains to be seen.

Read: LÉ Eithne to be recalled from Mediterranean in a month’s time

Read: Safe and well: Defence Forces medics return home from Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone

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