Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Matt Carthy TD, has said that the crisis in the Irish Defence Forces is worsening under the current government.
Deputy Carthy was speaking after Dáil questions with the Minister for Defence, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, on Tuesday evening when it was confirmed that more members of the Defence Forces left the organisation in 2023 than were inducted.
Carthy accused the government of lacking the necessary ambition and vision required to revitalise the Defence Forces.
Teachta Carthy said:
“When this government came into office there were 8,659 members of the Defence Forces. By the time Micheál Martin became Minister for Defence, that number had fallen to 7,966. It has been clear for some time that government action is proving insufficient to reverse the trend.
“This week the Tánaiste confirmed to me that there are now just 7,550 members within our Defence Forces. They are brilliant men and women serving our country that are being failed by this government.
“In 2023 750 members left the Defence Forces, just 450 were inducted. The crisis continues and is getting worse.
“The crisis is within both recruitment and retention. One won’t be solved without the other. The primary task must be to address the reasons why members are leaving the Defence Forces.
“The single most important retention initiative that government can take is in the implementation of the Working Time Directive to the Defence Forces. But, there is no sense of urgency. In July 2022 the High-Level Action Plan called for a Heads of Bill to be published within 6 months – this has yet to occur.
“Level of Ambition 2 outlined by the Commission on the Defence Forces calls for an establishment figure of 11,500, meaning in fact our Defence Forces are now understaffed by almost 2,000 personnel. The result is that the members of the Defence Forces cannot fulfil the roles they want and the capacity issues have meant that this government has withdrawn from an important UN Peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights.
“Through delay and a lack of prioritisation, this government is squandering the good will, opportunity and impetus that the Commission on the Defence Forces created, leaving just a legacy of glossy policy documents and unresolved grievances.
“Members of the Defence Forces take on unique responsibilities and risks in service to the Irish people. They deserve recognition and appreciation of this service by government. They are not currently receiving it.
“Rather than seeking to further undermine the reputation and credibility of our Defence Forces through the removal of the Triple-Lock neutrality protection, the Tánaiste should and must concentrate on a crisis within our Defence Forces that is worsening every year he is in government.”