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Tuesday 17 September 2019

Serious staff gaps in Defence Forces resulting in 'burnout and low morale'

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Serious staff gaps at all levels of the Defence Forces, particularly in middle management, has resulted in burnout and low morale, senior army officers have been told.

The manpower crisis arises from the failure of the Government to stem the flow of experienced personnel from the military.

Retention has taken over from recruitment as the big bugbear of the military, a conference heard.

The strength of the Defence Forces currently stands at 8,800 - the lowest in decades.

This compares with an establishment strength of 9,500, which the Government had promised would be a bottom line figure.

And the number available for duty drops to close on 7,500 when those serving overseas (about 600), in full-time training at any given time (around 500) and on career breaks (100) are taken out.

The shortage of experienced personnel is being felt across the three branches of the military organisation, the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps, and across all ranks.

As a result of the shortage:

  • The Air Corps has a strength of 78 pilots out of 107
  • One of the brigade ordnance companies, responsible for bomb disposal, retains only 16pc of its officers - one lieut colonel and one captain, instead of a lieut colonel, a commandant, four captains and five lieutenants
  • One of the infantry battalions has five officers out of 21
  • A transport company has six officers out of 24
  • the Naval Service has nine ships but only sufficient resources to safely crew seven of them

Details of the gaps in the organisation, particularly among middle managers, were spelled out at the annual delegate conference of RACO, the representative association for officers in the Defence Forces, which got under way in Cork today.

According to RACO, officers are double and triple jobbing to cover up the shortfall in their ranks.

The main theme of the two-day conference in Cork is the failure of the government to implement the EU working time directive (WTD) in the Defence Forces.

The WTD is grounded in health and safety legislation and, according to RACO, is a fundamental right that that has been denied to Defence Forces personnel for too long.

RACO believes that the WTD, if "faithfully implemented", could alleviate some of the stress, low morale and burnout affecting those left behind to fill the gaps created by a growing exodus of personnel, which has nullified previous highly successful recruitment campaigns.

The association argues that WTD has already been embraced by the Garda as well as military organisations overseas and that it could improve wellbeing among military personnel, create a proper work-life balance and boost morale, with a consequent positive effect on retention.

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