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'A retention crisis': Concerns raised as numbers serving in Defence Forces drops below 9,000

As of 30 September, permanent Defence Forces numbers dropped to 8,989.

Image: RollingNews.ie

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN raised after new figures reveal that the numbers serving in the permanent Defence Forces has fallen below 9,000. 

Figures released to Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers show that, as of 30 September, permanent Defence Forces numbers dropped to 8,989. This compared to 9,219 a year ago. 

Breaking the number down, a total of 7,247 personnel were in the Army, 720 were in the Air Corps and 1,022 were in the Naval Service. 

The Department of Defence noted that the final figures enlisted in 2018 will not be available until after the year’s end. 

As of 25 September, 414 personnel have been inducted in 2018 and inductions will continue for the rest of the year.

The government has committed to maintaining a strength level of 9,500 personnel across the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps. 

“Under Fine Gael, the Defence Forces is continuing to move further away from its approved establishment strength of 9,500,” Chambers said. 

He said that the latest figures are “clear and incontrovertible” evidence of the “retention crisis” that the Defence Forces faces. 

In a response to Chambers, Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Leo Varadkar said that in order to achieve the 9,500 personnel target there are “significant recruitment opportunities available”. 

Recruits from the first general service recruitment campaign held earlier this year are being inducted between September and end November. The 95th Cadet Class of 85 personnel was inducted on 24 September.

A second general service recruitment campaign was launched on 10 September and
closed on 7 October.

Pay and conditions

At its annual conference last year PDFORRA, which represents members of the Defence Forces, said poor pay and conditions are pushing people out of the job and discouraging new recruits from joining.

“Morale within the Forces is extremely low, and has not been helped by the decision by the Defence Minister not to make a recommendation to the Public Sector Pay Commission to increase pay levels,” Chambers said. 

“This is a source of deep frustration and anger,” he said. 

“Perhaps the breaching of the 9,000 threshold will end the government’s denial on the issue and act as a catalyst for action to end this retention crisis.” 

With reporting by Órla Ryan

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