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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
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Tánaiste declares Naval Service 'not acceptable' and calls for 'radical' recruitment drive

The Journal revealed on Wednesday that the Irish Naval Service will have just two ships available to go to sea until the new year.

THE TÁNAISTE HAS admitted that the state of the Irish Naval Service is “not acceptable” as only two ships can go out to sea and claimed that “conservative” hiring policies need to end. 

Micheál Martin, who is the Minister for both Defence and Foreign Affairs, said that there needs now to be a “radical” rethink of how the Irish Defence Forces recruit as the retention crisis continues despite multiple Government reassurances. 

Martin was speaking at an event in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin yesterday as US military and political figures gather this weekend for the Aer Lingus College Football clash between Notre Dame and Navy in the Aviva on Saturday evening.

The Journal revealed on Wednesday that the Irish Naval Service will have just two ships available to go to sea until the new year and sources have said that considerations are being made to have a reduced fleet in 2024 due to the ongoing staffing crisis.

The ships available to go on patrol will be the LÉ Samuel Beckett and LÉ William Butler Yeats – it is understood a third ship may be put on standby.

Martin admitted today that it was not acceptable that the Naval Service was below the required amount of personnel to function. 

He claimed that many people had left the Naval Service and took up jobs in pharmaceutical and other industry in the Cork Harbour area.  

“That’s not, in my view, an acceptable position where we are in terms of the optimal strength of the naval forces at the moment,” he said.

Martin denied that the Department of Defence was recruiting without considering the problem of retention – this is a key criticism of representative bodies.

“For example, well over 1,000 people apply annually, the conversion rate is very low in terms of inductions, and that, to me, is something that there has to be a less conservative approach,” he said.

‘No brainer’

Martin said that one key initiative to quicken the amount of members being admitted to the Naval Service was the removal of psychometric tests. 

These tests are completed either online or in writing and are designed to determine the aptitude and intellectual capability of a candidate to work in the service. Public service jobs such as the military, gardaí and nursing all have the tests in their recruitment process. 

The Naval Service recently removed the need for the examination and instead focused on interviews, medical and physical tests.

“In my view, that is a no brainer,” he said. 

IMG_5148 Niall O'Connor / The Journal. Tánasite Micheál Martin with US Ambassador Claire Cronin, US Senators Chris Murphy and Congressman Dade Phelan today. Niall O'Connor / The Journal. / The Journal.

Martin said be believed that a key incentive for joining the Naval Service was foreign deployments for Naval personnel such as Operation Irini in the Mediterranean to enforce a European Union anti-arms smuggling initiative off the coast of Libya.

The Tanaiste claimed that the nature of the high employment rate in the country was causing problems attracting young candidates into the Defence Forces and the Naval Service particularly. 

He hinted at a rethinking of how the Naval Service deploys and particularly at redesigning the lengthy periods at sea for sailors.  

“I think we have to fundamentally look at how the entire Naval Service is organised in terms of rosters and in terms of time at sea and so on.

“Because the competition for younger people today is enormous in terms of the range of options that young people have and it seems to me that a more radical approach is required in terms of attracting young people in and then subsequently retaining them,” he added. 

He concluded by stating that pay has been increased for the Naval Service cadetships with earnings starting at €46,000 and enlisted personnel start on €37,000.

He did not answer a question posed by this website in regard to the Patrol Duty Allowance – which is a financial incentive paid to sailors while at sea which representative bodies have been campaigning for to be reintroduced. 

A spokesperson for the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) said it was “deeply concerning” that the Tánaiste was prioritising recruitment over retention.

RACO said that there was a failure to accept that there was no point continuing with recruitment campaigns when there were large numbers of people leaving the Irish Defence Forces.

“We keep hearing how favourable starting Defence Forces rates of pay are. But for how many hours – 40, 50, 70 hours of work?

“Until working time is accurately and transparently recorded, no value judgement or assertion can be made on the comparability or adequacy of DF pay rates, time off or allowances,” the spokesperson said. 

The RACO spokesperson also criticised the claims that full employment in the State was having an impact on recruitment.

“Does that mean we need a recession to make the defence forces attractive?

“We have to compete with other employers by becoming an employer of choice, not hope for a downturn to solve our problems,” the RACO spokesperson added. 

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