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59 members of the Defence Forces tested positive for illegal drugs in the past five years

23 of the drug takers had to buy their way out of their military contracts.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A TOTAL OF 59 members of the Defence Forces have failed drug tests in the last five years but just 29 were discharged from duty.

Figures seen by TheJournal.ie show how since 2012, 59 members have tested positive for illegal drugs. Only 10% of the force is tested annually.

Defence Forces members are tested for a whole range of drugs. These include illicit drugs such as cocaine and cannabis but tests can also be carried out for legal medications which the member would not have been prescribed. Nearly 1,000 members are tested each year.

In some instances, members of the force were retained after being placed on a Targeted Drug Testing (TDT) scheme.

The objective of Targeted Drug Testing (TDT), according to the Department of Defence, is to ensure that an individual, who has tested positive for the presence of a controlled drug but “who conditionally remains in service as a result of a decision of their Formation Commander, is devoid of the presence and/or influence of any controlled drug or substance”.

TDT involves the individual agreeing to submit to targeted drugs testing, in addition to the random selection process, for a period of up to 18 months.

Of the 59 who tested positive for controlled drugs in the last five years:

  • 23 were Discharged By Purchase (where you buy your way out of contract)
  • Six were discharged
  • Seven are being processed
  • Four were retained after agreeing to more stringent testing (TDT)
  • Two were retained
  • One retired
  • 14 members’ services were ‘no longer required’
  • Five agreed to stricter drug testing

military Source: Defence Forces

Meanwhile, it also emerged how four members of the Defence Forces missed mandatory testing for drugs, two in 2012 and in another two in 2013.

In a statement, Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe said the military authorities “have advised me that the position of members of the Defence Forces who have failed or missed mandatory drug testing cannot be divulged under the provisions of the Data Protection Act”.

Sinn Féin’s defence spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that the figures are worrying due to the small sample size which is tested.

“It is worrying that since 2012, 59 members of the Defence Forces failed random drug tests that were carried on only 10% of serving personnel.

“Any form of substance abuse amongst our military is a cause for concern, particularly considering the responsibilities and duties they have at home and abroad.

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“It is important that there is careful monitoring of our Defence Forces so that when substance abuse is identified the necessary supports can be made available to assist anyone who is at risk and this should include, when necessary, access to counselling and rehabilitation services.”

In a statement, the Defence forces said that it was “committed to proactively deterring drug use by means of education and conducting compulsory random drugs tests”.

“In 2016, 12 personnel had positive tests, when comparing this to the strength of the organisation as of 31 Dec 2016, it represents 0.0011%,” a spokesperson said.

“Confirmed positive testing for controlled substances will result in disciplinary procedures being brought with a range of potential sanctions, up to and including dismissal from service.

Due to the risk and complex nature involved in tasks assigned to the Defence Forces it is vital that our members are in top physical and mental condition, Compulsory Random Drugs Testing is one of the many proactive steps we take to ensure this.

Read: Irish soldiers ‘depend on loan sharks and welfare payments’ to support their families >

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