'Crisis point' as more leave Defence Forces
Defence Forces numbers have continued to fall, despite a significant recruitment campaign.
The numbers leaving the forces have reached a crisis point and the Government needs to take more effective action to boost overall numbers, warned Fianna Fáil's defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers.
New figures reveal the numbers serving in the permanent Defence Forces have fallen yet again - with only 9,044 members recorded at the end of May.
"The Defence Forces has an approved establishment strength of 9,500. However, despite a significant recruitment campaign during 2016, there are fewer members now then there were at the end of 2015," said Ms Chambers.
"The Taoiseach may make claims in the Dáil that more people are applying to join the Defence Forces than there are positions available, but that simply shows the extent of his denial on this matter."
Last month, Defence Minister Paul Kehoe said the Government was committed to maintaining the stabilised strength of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) at 9,500 personnel, comprising of 7,520 Army, 886 Air Corps and 1,094 Naval Service.
In April, the Irish Independent revealed how, in the wake of increased threats from Islamic fundamentalists, a Government commitment to double the size of the Defence Forces' special forces unit, the Army Ranger Wing, had not been acted upon almost two years after it was first announced.
The announcement was made in November 2015 by the then-defence minister Simon Coveney immediately following the deaths of 130 people in Paris during a co-ordinated attack by Isil.
In March, it was reported that devastating cuts and an "alarming" brain drain of specially trained personnel have dramatically reduced the Defence Forces' ability to provide "even a minimal effective response" to any major security incident.
In the past three years, more than 12pc of officers - lieutenant, captain and commandant ranks - have left the organisation.