Reserve army to be pulled from rural areas after review
THE Reserve Defence Force (RDF) is preparing for a massive withdrawal from rural areas after major cutbacks to training were announced.
The RDF, which was formerly the FCA, has provided back-up to the full-time military for the past 70 years.
But the part-time force looks set to be confined to major urban areas in the future after it was confirmed last night that the number of permanent troops assigned to training the reservists would be cut from 250 to 50.
And with only 50 members of the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF) covering the rest of the country, reservists fear many of the towns without a permanent military presence will be ignored.
A senior reservist claimed last night: "We are suffering death by a thousand cuts. After looking at the butchering that some of the full-time units are undergoing in the re-organisation, I fear for our future."
Defence Minister Alan Shatter said on Tuesday that a value-for-money review of the reserve, which has been under way for the past few years, is due to be complete by the end of September.
But reservists pointed out last night that they had been given the same promise last September.
"It seems we are being left to wither on the vine", one said.
"Without the proper training, recruitment and equipment, our units in areas where there are no large garrisons will simply disappear.
"We are the only voluntary organisation in the State whose recruitment is being confined. Others like the Order of Malta, the Red Cross and the Civil Defence are continuing to recruit but we are being hit."
Mr Shatter said that, in future, reserve units co-located with PDF units would have their administrative and support requirements met by the PDF.
"Where this is not feasible, due to geographic dispersion, sufficient PDF cadre staff will be retrained to provide for the training and administrative requirements of such units", he added.
However, this is disputed by both senior full-time officers and reservists.
They pointed out last night that 50 trainers could not be expected to look after the rest of the country, outside of the cities and towns where the PDF barracks were based.
They said areas such as Clonmel, Mullingar and Castlebar -- which all have long military traditions -- were in grave danger of being left to fade away by being starved of resources.
The reservists have no representative on the review group and have been refused a meeting with its members. But they have been allowed to make a written submission.