THE strength of the Defence Forces is still likely to fall short of the required minimum of 9,500 -- despite the recruitment of 600 personnel in the coming months.
After the closing deadline for applications was reached on Sunday night, it was revealed yesterday that 10,500 people had applied.
All of the successful candidates are not likely to be in place until the end of the year. And by then the current personnel level of 8,950 is expected to have fallen again with normal wastage and retirements. A breakdown of the applications showed that 8,752 were interested in 480 posts in the Army, while 1,583 indicated they wanted to join the Naval Service where there are 120 vacancies.
Around 120 applicants said they would like to join the Army band. But it has not yet been determined how many vacancies will be filled there. The applicants will be contacted within the next week and will then undergo a literacy and verbal reasoning test.
The group will then be whittled down to 2,500 candidates, who will then be tested on their fitness levels, and the top 600 will be selected to join the Defence Forces.
The first platoon of new recruits is due to be enlisted by the end of September and the rest will be taken in during the following three months.
The current strength of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps is at its lowest since 1969 at the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
During the 1980s the strength peaked at 15,000 but following a major programme of rationalisation the numbers have plummeted by 40pc.
The success of the rationalisation prompted economist Colm McCarthy, head of An Bord Snip Nua, to hold up the Defence Forces as a model for the rest of the public service and led the Government to establish a 9,500 minimum number.
Last week Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter criticised the president of the Garda Representative Association Damien McCarthy for his remarks querying the recruitment of 600 for the military while imposing a moratorium on the Garda. But Mr McCarthy denied suggestions by Mr Shatter that he had denigrated the Defence Forces in his comments.
Meanwhile, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has said Ireland is considering sending a contingent of unarmed observers to Syria as part of a 300-strong United Nations mission to monitor compliance with a ceasefire and six-point peace plan. A decision will be made at a Cabinet meeting today after a UN call over the weekend.