| 17.7°C Dublin

Women join army's professional killers

WOMEN have joined the ranks of the army's most elite -- as professional killers.

A number of young women have successfully become snipers, meaning they will be the first to be called upon to take out hijackers and terrorists.

The sniper training course is the most arduous in the Defence Forces.

Marksmen and now, for the first time, women are expected to spend up to three days alone in undergrowth with only army pack rations for sustenance and a plastic bag for a toilet.

The confirmation that women are now snipers came in an interview with new Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Sean McCann in military magazine An Cosantoir.

He said he was proud that female recruits are now involved in every unit, even the sniper division.

"Unlike other organisations, all appointments within the Defence Forces are open to both males and females," he said.

"We have female snipers, APC drivers, heavy vehicle technicians, pilots, and ships' captains.

"I think that above any organisation in the State, the Defence Forces is very much an equal opportunities employer, and career advancement within the Defence Forces is based on ability and merit.

"We also have many family friendly policies, including career breaks, and maternity and parental leave."

There have been instances of female snipers in the past, with reports surfacing in recent years that Countess Markievicz and other women worked as snipers during the 1916 Rising.

Snipers are equipped with Accuracy International AI 96 rifles with a range of up to 1,000 metres.

Army snipers train regularly with snipers from the Canadian army and have taken part in sniper competitions in the US and Canada.