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Plan to stem exodus from the Defence Forces is a '€10m failure'


Stock photo: Frank McGrath

Stock photo: Frank McGrath

Stock photo: Frank McGrath

A government plan launched a year ago to rescue the Defence Forces and stem the exodus of personnel has failed to meet the deadlines set for more than half of its projects.

The plan was aimed at putting more money in the pockets of the troops and making the military more attractive.

Now the plan has been declared a failed €10m initiative by senior officers.

Since its launch at the start of July last year, the strength of the Defence Forces has fallen by another 300 to a record low of 8,450, compared to its establishment limit of 9,500.

Conor King, general secretary of the representative association for officers, Raco, has accused the authorities of allowing the plan to fail.

He said they were now a full year into the implementation of the plan and his members felt betrayed yet again by those charged with their welfare.

Comdt King said Raco and Pdforra, which represents soldiers, sailors and air crew, had both reluctantly accepted the recommendations of the Public Service Pay Commission after they got "cast-iron assurances" that the plan would be delivered.

"At that time, Raco stated that the success or failure of the plan would be reflected in the monthly strength figures. With the strength having plummeted to 8,400 since its publication, the failure is unfortunately plain to see and devastating to our members," he added.

He said the plan committed to specific timelines for the delivery of 15 specific projects but eight of those were behind schedule. He said they had seen the "cynical blaming" of the Covid-19 response for the failure of the plan.

"It is an undisputed fact that the plan was falling significantly behind schedule long before anyone heard of Covid-19 or before any restrictions or reassignments materialised."

He said they were promised a review of pay structures and the implementation of review findings by July 4, 2020, at the latest.

Now they were being told that most of this work would be done within a wider review of public sector pay arrangements with no timeframe.

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In response, the Department of Defence said four projects had been completed, another six would be finished by September while reports on three pay-related projects had also been completed, with two of them linked to the next pay agreement. The two remaining projects were being progressed.

It said the number of officers had increased by 64, or 5.5pc, over the period and this was a positive development.

Covid-19 had resulted in the postponement of the majority of recruit inductions that were planned and would have brought in 310 personnel.

A campaign to re-enlist personnel received significant interest with 647 applicants and the first tranche were due to be taken in shortly. It said the three immediate pay measures in the plan were implemented as soon as they were accepted by the associations.

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