SENIOR officers in the Defence Forces are entitled to up to 50 days' annual leave.
A group of 499 officers, ranked at commandant or above, can be granted up to 43 days' annual leave, another four privilege days and three days' leave to commemorate days of "military significance". These include the 1916 Rising, National Day of Commemoration and Deceased Members Day.
The leave entitlement compares with a maximum of 33 days in the public sector and a private sector average of 25 for chief executives.
A spokesman confirmed details of senior officers' leave entitlements and said the Defence Forces' method of calculating leave differed from the rest of the public sector.
Leave was not automatically granted, said the spokesman, it was "a privilege" and: "Its granting is at the discretion of the commander."
He said Defence Forces personnel were rostered to work five days across a seven-day week, but that they could be ordered to work extra days.
There is no overtime and personnel can spend weeks training away from home.
Senior officers, ranked from commandant to general, are allowed up to 43 days' leave, while junior officers, from lieutenant to captain, can take a maximum of 31 days.
Four privilege days a year, two at Christmas and Easter, are also granted. Personnel not rostered for duties also get the nine public holidays and three days of "military significance".
If they are required to report for duty on any of these privilege days or on a bank holiday, they do not get a day off in lieu.
According to the Defence Forces human-resources department, senior officers availed of an average of 30 days' leave, while junior ranks up to captain took an average of 26 days.
The Defence Forces could not say last night how many officers availed of their full entitlement.
A spokesman said an officer could be rostered to work office duties for five days and then, for example, work security duty for 24 hours on the following day.
He added that if an officer wanted to take a Friday and a Monday off, they also had to take the Saturday and Sunday, even if they were not rostered to work.
"We provide contingency, so you have to be available to be called in," he explained.
Officers could be obliged to report to barracks at short notice as part of unit-recall plans, which occurred up to six times a year, even if they were on holidays.
Permission to travel abroad on holidays had to be given in writing, he added.