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An Irish Defence Forces parade. Irish Defence Forces
A few groomed men

Gone today, hair tomorrow: Irish Defence Forces to allow members to grow beards

New rules on dress come into effect on 1 February.

FOR THE FIRST time in the Irish Defence Forces’ history soldiers will be allowed to wear beards while on routine duty. 

At present the rule is that all personnel must be clean shaven but that will change on 1 February when male soldiers, air crew and sailors will be allowed to go unshaven.

It is all part of broader moves coming about following recommendations from the Commission on the Defence Forces – a report that looked at military shortcomings. This latest change is designed to help create a more inclusive service – and beards are not the only issue to be dealt with. 

There will also be changes to rules around jewellery, how women can wear their hair and even the painting of female soldiers’ nails.

Senior non-commissioned officers were key in deciding the change and they were led by Irish Defence Forces Sergeant Major Keith Caffrey. 

Caffrey told The Journal that the move to a different dress code would make the Defence Forces a more inclusive employer and be a better mirror of modern Ireland. 

“The outlined changes will closely align the Defence Forces with Ireland of 2024.

“It creates a progressive working environment that is cognisant of the individual, whilst respecting the uniform we are proud to wear, and building a productive and cohesive team,” he said.

Until this move beards were limited to members of the elite Army Ranger Wing who were permitted to grow beards and wear longer hair due to their role in Special Forces operations. This is due to the covert and undercover nature of their work.

51511384129_9bd5eefeba_o Defence Forces Sgt Major Keith Caffrey (left) with Lt General Seán Clancy. Irish Defence Forces Irish Defence Forces

There was also scope for people in other units to make an appeal to wear a beard on duty if they suffered from a skin condition. The new rule will mean that while members will still have to apply to wear a beard they will now not need a medical certificate.

Personnel who work on operations in which they will have to wear a gas mask and other protective gear like in firefighting will not be permitted to wear a beard.  Health and safety factors will also be considered in whether they will be permitted to have facial hair. 

Despite the more liberal dress code there are still plenty of rules (it is the military after all).

There are new rules in regard to nail varnish being worn by female personnel (it will be allowed but will have to be a particular shade and not have any designs). Female military members will also be allowed to wear earrings and there are changes to the way they are allowed to wear their hair. 

The information will be sent to all members of the Irish Defence Forces and diagrams are being displayed at bases which clearly set out the rules. 

The Irish Defence Forces move comes after An Garda Síochána’s move to allow operational gardaí to wear beards at work.

They are not alone internationally but are ahead of the curve as the British Army are currently considering a similar move.