Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Matt Carthy TD, has said that the evidence of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) at the Oireachtas Defence Committee this week points to the Defence Forces reaching a ‘a watershed moment’.
Addressing the Oireachtas Committee, RACO representatives described progress in implementing the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces as ‘the only thing that really has changed is the strength of the organisation, and not for the better’.
Teachta Carthy said:
“The evidence to the Oireachtas Defence Committee by RACO is a stark contrast to the assertions made by the Department of Defence last week. The RACO comments can only be taken as a scathing rebuke on the current government’s failure to address the retention and recruitment crisis within the Defence Forces.
“It is clear that Ireland is facing a watershed moment in terms of our Defence Forces.
“The numbers confirm RACO’s assertions. The current strength of our Defence Forces stands at just 79.9% of the establishment figure and only 66% of target levels. Under the current government more people are leaving the Defence Forces every year than are joining. This leads to what RACO describe as ‘inevitable burnout’ and ‘serious concerns for governance and the ability to manage risk and ensure the well being of our personnel’. This should be of significant concern to government because we could reach a point when our Defence Forces will be unable to perform the duties expected of them.
“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, no timeframe for bringing forward the necessary legislation, no budgetary provision for the implementation and no evidence that data is being collected on hours currently worked by personnel.
“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.
“It will be impossible to deliver the recommendations of the Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces without addressing the recruitment and retention crises. That will not happen without a fundamental change in approach by government.”