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Monday 25 March 2019

Defence Forces to open year-round recruitment over drop in numbers

Minister of State Paul Kehoe. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Minister of State Paul Kehoe. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

An ongoing recruitment campaign for the Defence Forces, to replace the current stop-go system, will be launched today by Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe.

The switch is being made at the request of military management in a bid to restore numbers, which continue to fall well below the establishment figure of 9,500.

The aim is to target an additional 800 personnel in the new-style recruitment drive this year.

The campaign gets under way as military officers warn that the reduction in strength is spiralling out of control and placing the future viability of the Defence Forces under threat.

Since 2017, there have been two general service competitions annually but candidates will now be able to apply for a job on a continuous basis.

The new approach has been recommended by the military and adopted by Mr Kehoe and is intended to improve numbers and facilitate those making career decisions at any time of the year.

It is understood the ongoing model will be applied to the Army and Naval Service.

The starting pay for a newly qualified three-star army private is €27,759, inclusive of military service allowance, with scope for further income from duty allowances.

While previous recruitment campaigns have been successful in attracting new candidates, the major problem facing the military is retention of personnel.

The military is still awaiting the outcome of a Government-ordered review of pay and conditions, which was expected to be produced last year by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform but is not now likely until this summer.

Last September, the Irish Independent revealed that the strength of the military had dropped to 8,923, the lowest number for decades.

An analysis over an 11-month period showed that while the Defence Forces recruited 699 personnel, it lost 632 members - a net gain of 67 people, or 0.7pc.

The latest figures, obtained yesterday, show the current strength is 8,921 - but this includes 531 personnel in training.

After carrying out a survey of its members, RACO, the representative association for officers in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, said yesterday that 79pc of recently inducted officers were planning to leave early due to the lack of a viable career path, due to Government policies.

RACO general secretary Comdt Conor King said the current retention crisis would worsen unless the Government took decisive action.

"Any objective person can see that the Department of Defence policies are failing our members and failing the State. The cost benefit of retention over unsustainable recruitment has yet be realised by the department," he added.

The 622 officers surveyed criticised the changes in terms and conditions for those who joined the Defence Forces since 2013 and, particularly, the policy that forced officers to retire early without adequate pension entitlements, unlike other parts of the public service.

Irish Independent

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