New blow to Army as 500 troops to be axed
THE strength of the Army is to be cut by 500 troops as part of a major reorganisation of the Defence Forces, it was learned last night.
The move is a major blow to officers and troops who underwent a savage reduction in strength little over a decade ago.
The new reduction is expected to be announced today by Defence Minister Alan Shatter.
It is expected that the reduction will come as officers retire and are not replaced.
It means that the number of troops will be scaled down from the present 8,500 to 8,000 despite the big commitment of soldiers to UN peacekeeping duties overseas and activities at home in support of the garda crackdown on dissident terrorists and criminal bombers.
The officer corps is expected to lose around 100 personnel, with a further 200 cut in non-commissioned officers (NCOs).
The Naval Service and the Air Corps will not be affected by the reorganisation.
Meanwhile, 18 senior gardai are to be promoted immediately and a further eight vacant posts at the top level will also be filled shortly.
Mr Shatter disclosed yesterday that he was awaiting sanction from the Cabinet today before authorising the bulk of the promotions.
Among the 18 are the head of the national drugs unit, Tony Quilter, who will become an assistant commissioner.
New chiefs will include John Gilligan, who has been press officer for more than three years; John Scanlan in Limerick; and Aidan Glacken in Athlone.
Competitions will be held to select the additional eight officers to be promoted.
Mr Shatter said that the announcement of the promo- tions had no connection to the spate of armed raids in Dublin, and that it had been under negotiation for some time.
He was speaking at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, where 95 recruits to the part-time reserve force graduated.
They bring the overall strength of the reserve to more than 1,000 and the authorities say they are on course to achieve their target number, equivalent to one-tenth of the full-time force, by the middle of next year.
Those who graduated included a bank official, teacher, safety consultant, receptionist, waitress, fitter, plumber, carpenter, childcare worker, shop assistants, students and unemployed men and women.
However, the Garda Representative Association said yesterday it continued to oppose the reserve until the full-time professional force was properly resourced.
But Mr Shatter said the reserve had a very important role to play and its members were performing a variety of useful tasks on the streets and in offices without being involved in serious crime investigations.
Reservists are paid €1,000 to meet their annual expenses, including travelling to the Garda College once a year to undergo a refresher training course.