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Ireland's military officers are 'burned out', a conference will hear today

RACO represents more than 1,200 Permanent Defence Force Officers from Officer Cadet to Colonel ranks.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

IRELAND’S DEFENCE FORCE officers are “over-committed and burned-out”, a conference will hear today.

Commandant Conor King was speaking ahead of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) conference in Kildare. 

The group represents more than 1,200 Permanent Defence Force officers from Officer Cadet to Colonel ranks.  

Delegates attending the Raco’s biennial delegate conference will hear that Ireland’s Defence Forces are “over-stretched, over-committed and overlooked by Government”.

King said that there is frustration and palpable concern around the continuing depletion of the force’s numbers. 

Statistics compiled by Raco show that the organisation inducted 3,116 personnel but lost 3,679 people between 2016 and 2020. 

The conference will highlight the threat to the Defence Forces’ strength due to a lack of action to deal with “deteriorating retention and governance levels”. 

King, Raco’s General Secretary, will raise the issue with the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney when he attends the conference on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Raco President Commandant Luke Foley will address the newly installed Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Séan Clancy.  

Foley described the impact of the recruitment and retention challenges as debilitating on members. 

“We have reached a milestone in our association’s history, but we need to radically address what is becoming a worrying trend,” he said.

“Our force’s strength continues to reduce which is putting extraordinary pressure on our members. As president I cannot be a bystander.

“We need a growing force that is vibrant and diverse. We hope that this conference provides a forum for action and improvements from the Minister and the Chief of Staff on how we can all work together to curb the talent drain.” 

King said there are three critical issues that are directly impacting recruitment and retention. 

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“We are willing to transform from the inside out in order to serve our people and country more effectively, but there are glaring issues that we need to address in order to move forward,” he added.  

King explained that commitment of personnel to overseas service was one of those issues.

“Upwards of 560 personnel are deployed at any one time on overseas service, with the same number preparing to deploy,” he said.

“This has led to considerable over-commitment of personnel and generated significant gaps in home units, impacting on recruitment, training, health and safety of personnel and good governance.” 

King explained also that remuneration and HR issues were adversely affecting the Defence Forces’ ability to recruit.  

He also explained that transformation to a modern force, and Raco itself, with enhanced female representation “is both urgent and critical to our future relevance”.

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