National service 'would be waste of valuable funds'
Only a minority want it to 'harden up' youngsters
MOST people in the country are against introducing national service in the Defence Forces here, which is mandatory in some EU countries.
But they are more evenly divided when it comes to increasing the strength of the Army to cope with possible mass strikes by public service workers in essential services, a Sunday Independent poll has shown.
The possibility that national service could be introduced in Ireland was raised by Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton.
She suggested that that people could have a choice of serving in military or civil service, which she said had been successful in Germany, where men are obliged to serve for six months in the military or alternative work in a voluntary organisation.
However, an overwhelming 70 per cent of people questioned said they would disagree with national service, while 30 per cent agreed. Most people questioned thought it would be impractical to bring in such a programme because the funds would be badly needed in more pressing areas of public spending, such as health and education.
POLLS PAGE 30
However a minority thought it would be a good idea and would teach young people some discipline and harden them up.
The idea also didn't find much favour with the political parties. Fine Gael defence spokesman David Stanton insisted that anyone who served in the Army should be there of their own free will.
Mr Stanton, who was a commissioned officer in the FCA (now the Army Reserve), said it took a good deal of time to train a modern soldier or sailor and it was a young person's profession.
A recruitment campaign for the Army had now attracted candidates of a very high calibre, and he would be slow to dilute that level of expertise and professionalism by making it mandatory.
He said the Army Reserve was a way of improving morale and teamwork but it did not come cheap and it was undergoing a value-for-money review with a report due out in March.
"Even in the floods they [the Reserves] were not called out, and the level of training is not good enough to enable them to go overseas.I would be interested in having some form of local defence force but we would have to look at the cost."
Recruitment to the Army Reserve was suspended in March 2009, and while there is limited recruitment a strength of 7,671 can't be exceeded.
Defence Minister Tony Killeen admitted recently that numbers in the Reserve had declined, and he said the trend in "reduced volunteerism is not confined to the Reserve but is indicative of broader societal trends".