Hundreds of troops face being moved in re-organisation of forces
Several hundred troops face a job move under a re-organisation of the Defence Forces announced yesterday.
Many of the soldiers are facing a dilemma of choosing between uprooting their families to new locations or switching units in the Army.
The changes are likely to mean that the military chiefs will have to order a massive retraining programme, which will take several years to complete, to meet the targets laid down in the plans.
The re-organisation also threatens to damage Ireland's focus on niche specialities, which have resulted in key roles for the troops in overseas posts with the United Nations.
Senior military officers admitted last night that the move away from specialists to general service soldiers could leave them at a disadvantage as most other armies move in the opposition direction.
They warned that too many of the changes were being driven by cost saving at the expense of military effectiveness.
As revealed in the Irish Independent yesterday, the re-organisation is also going to lead to a reduction in the strength of the Army by 500, down to about 8,000. The Naval Service and the Air Corps remain untouched by the downsizing.
Defence Minister Alan Shatter said yesterday that the purpose of the re-organisation was to retain the capacity of the Defence Forces to fulfil the roles assigned, "to the greatest extent possible", within the strength ceiling of 9,500 and significantly reduced resources.
Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieut General Sean McCann, said this was the most far-reaching re-organisation in a generation and he fully recognised that the task of implementing the plan would rest on the shoulders of the men and women of the forces.
But PDFORRA, the organisation representing soldiers, reacted angrily to the announcement. General secretary Gerry Rooney said there was little justification for the decision to reduce the Defence Forces to two brigades and shut down 500 jobs. He said they were particularly surprised that the minister had pressed ahead with the restructuring, prior to the publication of a government green paper on defence.