Defence Forces set to recruit over 400 personnel in army, navy and air corps
OVER 400 new recruits have been sanctioned for the Defence Forces to bring the army, navy and air corps back up to 9,500 personnel.
Defence Minister Alan Shatter confirmed that recruitment will begin immediately and aims to ensure the Defence Forces retain the maximum flexibility to undertake challenging overseas missions.
Irish troops are currently engaged in major missions in the Lebanon and Syria.
Mr Shatter said Ireland currently has military commitments in 14 different countries - the greatest ever level of international operations.
The 400 recruit intake will be supplemented by 500 new recruits for the Reserve Defence Forces.
"This is a very important day for the Defence Forces. The recruitment campaign has already been put up on the Defence Forces website," Mr Shatter said.
The selection process will begin in five weeks.
"The objective strength of the Defence Forces is 9,500 and this recruitment is taking into account retirements," Mr Shatter said.
"We are also looking to recruit 500 new members to the Reserve Defence Force having implemented a re-organisation."
"I am hoping we will have lots of people interested. There will be online application forms and I am looking to have some dynamic new recruits both into the PDF and the RDF," he said.
"We have members of the PDF in 14 different overseas missions across the world, the greatest number in the history of the State. We have large numbers in southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights but we have smaller numbers in places like Somalia, Kosovo and Mali."
Irish Defence Forces tweeted this recruitment ad online
The PDF dropped below 9,200 personnel last January with further retirements across the army, navy and air corps occurring this year.
Senior PDF officers were worried that the ability to undertake major overseas missions could be hampered if personnel levels fell below 9,000.
Mr Shatter said the 400 job recruitment will bring the PDF back to optimal operating levels.
"The objective is to maintain the strength within the PDF which means we have a rolling recruitment campaign for all three services."
"Obviously, the major number (of recruits) will be heading to the army. But it is also an exciting time for the Naval Service. We have two new vessels coming on stream. The first, LE Samuel Beckett, is currently doing sea trials and I expect it to be formally launched towards the end of April or early May."
The second of the Euro53m patrol vessels, LE James Joyce, will be delivered next year.
The two vessels will be the most high-tech ships in Irish military history and will be faster and longer ranged than existing ships.
The two vessels will also be capable of operating both drone surveillance aircraft and robotic submarines.
"They cost in the region of Euro53m each and I am looking forward to seeing the ships commissioned and operational," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Shatter refused to comment on the ongoing Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) controversy and the claim by former confidential recipient, Oliver Connolly, that his good name was tarnished.
"No, I am not getting into that," Mr Shatter said, bluntly refusing to answer questions about the matter.
Mr Connolly said he remains an enthusiastic support of Mr Shatter but claimed that others in the Dail had subjected him to "a concentrated attack."
“My honour, my good name, my professional competence and integrity, my privacy as an ordinary citizen have been impugned,” Mr Connolly said.
The solicitor refused to publicly criticise either Taoiseach Enda Kenny or Mr Shatter for relieving him of his duties.
“I have been asked to comment on the Minister for Justice’s decision to relieve me of my duties in office. The Minister and An Taoiseach have acted as they have in relieving me of my position. So be it."
Mr Connolly has now been invited to attend the Oireachtas justice committee to deal with his role in Garda controversies.
Mr Shatter told the Dail the only knowledge he had of the alleged conversation between Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe and Mr Connolly came from initial reports of the transcript.