Sinn Féin spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has said that veteran members of the Defence Forces have been left dangling by the government, as they wait to discover whether they will be forced to retire or not next year.
Responding to an announcement from the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, Teachta Brady said:
“The Minister has announced that cohort of veteran members of the Defence Forces will uncover their fate by the end of the year at the latest. Referred to as the post-1994 cohort, these members were offered significantly shorter contracts than those previously available, and their contracts are due to expire next year.
“This comes at a time when the Defence Forces are under-staffed to the degree that leading figures in the defence establishment have questioned the continued capacity of the force to fulfil their duties.
“Naval vessels are unable to out to sea, and operations are being put on hold as staffing shortages approach critical levels.
“At a figure of 700, the loss of the post-1994 cohort due to forced retirement will come close to doubling the current shortfall of 981 from the established figure that the Defence Forces require to carry out its role effectively.
“But this loss cannot be measured in numbers alone. These personnel represent the institutional core of the Defence Forces, consisting of the most experienced and most capable serving personnel, their loss would be incalculable.
“Particularly at a time when the officer Corps of the Defence Forces is also being decimated due to members leaving the forces. Approximately one third of the Officer Corps currently has less than five years experience.
“I have argued with the Minister that if a serving member of the Defence Forces has that capability to pass current medical and fitness tests, they should not be forced to retire from the Defence Forces.
“Particularly when our country needs their talent, experience, and professionalism more today than ever before.
“I am again calling on Minister Coveney, who alone has to power to resolve this situation, to make the sensible and necessary decision to scrap the post-1994 contracts, and allow this dedicated cohort, to continue to serve their country, and to provide future recruits with the value of the experience of their service to date.”