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Military exodus crisis as a third of troops leave


Leaving: The Defence Forces are hemorrhaging members

Leaving: The Defence Forces are hemorrhaging members

Leaving: The Defence Forces are hemorrhaging members

The Defence Forces have lost a third of their personnel in five years - the biggest retention crisis they have ever faced.

On current trends, the Defence Forces will not reach their authorised strength of 9,500 until 2035.

Now an organisation representing officers has called for a new retention strategy and an independent pay review body to recognise the unique nature of military service.

Almost nine out of 10 Defence Forces personnel earn below the average public sector wage, with at least 90 qualifying for the fixed income supplement to help them feed their families.

An upcoming report from the public pay sector commission is expected to show disappointing recommendations that will make no impact on the numbers leaving.

The extent of the crisis was revealed yesterday by the leader of RACO - which represents officers in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps - in a presentation to the Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs, trade and defence.

RACO general secretary Comdt Conor King accused the Department of Defence of being either unwilling or unable to introduce any credible retention policy to stem the exodus of trained personnel from the forces.

He called the department's approach to representation divisive, dismissive and sometimes subversive, leading to an adversarial and dysfunctional industrial relations climate.

The public pay commission report, due to go before the Cabinet next month, is confined to suggesting increases to allowances because of restrictions imposed in the commission's brief.

Its publication, according to RACO, is likely to act as a catalyst for further departures.

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Comdt King said the Central Statistics Office continually reported that the military was the lowest paid public sector employees.

At the same time, it is the most trusted public service organisation in the State, with a "trust score" of 82pc.

He pointed out that 3,200 personnel had left the Defence Forces between 2014 and 2018, which represented an "astonishing" 34.7pc of the average strength for those years.

He added that 82pc of those leaving were premature voluntary retirements.

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