Defence Forces to recruit 400 troops and 500 reserves
More than 400 recruits have been sanctioned for the Defence Forces to bring the Army, Navy and Air Corps back to 9,500 personnel.
The 400-recruit intake will be supplemented by 500 new recruits for the Reserve Defence Forces.
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 engaged in major missions in the Lebanon and Syria.
Mr Shatter said Ireland has military commitments in 14 different countries – the greatest ever level of international operations.
"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 reorganisation.
"There will be online application forms and I am looking to have some dynamic new recruits both into the PDF (Permanent Defence Forces) and the RDF," he said.
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 recruitments would 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," he said.
"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 €53m patrol vessels, LE James Joyce, will be delivered next year.
The two vessels will be the most hi-tech ships in Irish military history and will be faster and longer-ranged than before.
Meanwhile, Mr Shatter refused to comment on the ongoing Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission 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.