'Staggering' sick leave in Defence Forces with 200 absent every day
An average of more than 200 Defence Forces personnel were absent from work due to illness every day during the first three-and-a-half months of this year, new figures have revealed.
The statistic was described as "staggering" by an Opposition spokesperson, who blamed low morale and poor job satisfaction for the high level of absenteeism in the Army, Air Corps and Navy.
Defence Forces members took 21,163 sick days between January 1 and April 15 this year, according to data released to Fianna Fáil defence spokesperson Jack Chambers, in response to a parliamentary question.
Army personnel accounted for 17,573 of these sick days, while members attached to the Air Corps and Navy took a total of 1,748 and 1,842 sick days, respectively.
At the end of last year, the strength of the Permanent Defence Forces stood at 8,989. This was made up of 7,247 members in the Army, 720 in the Air Corps and 1,022 in the Navy.
Mr Chambers said that the level of absenteeism due to sickness was "staggering" and highlighted the "perilous situation" faced by the Defence Forces.
"I understand sick leave across the Defence Forces is way out of kilter with comparable organisations, and these levels cannot be sustained," he said.
Minister of State Paul Kehoe, who provided the statistics, said that sick leave is granted to members of the Permanent Defence Forces on the recommendation of an internal medical officer or, where this is not practicable, on the recommendation of a civilian doctor.