Thursday 20 July 2017

Coveney's promise to double the number of Army Rangers has gone nowhere

Members of the Army Rangers Wing during the 1916 Easter Commemoration Parade in Dublin
Members of the Army Rangers Wing during the 1916 Easter Commemoration Parade in Dublin

Paul Williams

A government commitment to double the size of the Army Ranger Wing in response to increased terrorist threats has not been acted upon almost two years after it was announced, the Irish Independent can reveal.

In the wake of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, then-Defence Minister Simon Coveney confirmed major expansion of the Defence Forces' elite commando unit as a key counter-terrorism measure.

However, the Irish Independent can reveal that as of last month there were just two vacancies in the Ranger Wing whose actual strength remains no more than 60 members.

Military sources claim there has been no increase in the unit strength and no plans are in place for an expansion which would require the recruitment of at least 40 new members.

A source close to the elite unit said: "Despite Minister Coveney prioritising the expansion of the ARW the management in the Defence Forces has done nothing to implement this.

"There is no-one in place to measure or evaluate the actual expansion as directed by the Government. The public are not being told the truth about the state of the Defence Forces; that will only come out when something terrible happens and then it will be too late."

The Irish Independent asked the Department of Defence what percentage increase had taken place in the Ranger Wing since the Minister's announcement and if the figure of 100 had been achieved.

A spokesperson would not confirm if any expansion took place, citing "operational security".

A statement said: "In the recently published White Paper on Defence, the Government has committed to further enhance the capabilities of the Army Ranger Wing, in particular with the aim of increasing the strength of the unit considerably.

"As the Army Ranger Wing is the Special Operations Force of the Defence Forces the exact number of personnel in it or their location is not released into the public domain, for reasons of operational security."

But military insiders have described "an unprecedented crisis" unfolding behind the barracks walls.

Massive cutbacks and a "disastrous reorganisation" has led to a brain drain of specialists such as pilots, bomb disposal officers and naval engineers

The Irish Independent has also revealed that the troop shortages are so acute that soldiers are being bussed from Donegal and Athlone to perform basic barrack security duties in Dublin.

A senior military source added: "The recruitment drive sounds good and it is being used by the department to convince the public the problem of personnel shortages is being addressed, but that's not the case.

"There is a scarcity of instructors which is a consequence of the brain drain. At present the only public duties we can perform adequately are ceremonial which includes the Air Corps."

Irish Independent

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