Sinn Féin spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD today called for service contracts for Defence Force members to allow them to serve until they are fifty years of age, provided they pass the required fitness tests.
Teachta Brady raised the issue at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence with Mr. Aidan O Driscoll, the Chair of the Commission of the Future of the Defence Forces
The Wicklow TD said:
“The appearance of the Chair of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces at the Joint Committee provides us with a very welcome opportunity to raise key issues of concern.
“The core of the Defence Forces is its membership.
“The key overriding issue affecting the Defence Forces, and one that has the most potential to impact on its operational capacity, is that of recruitment and retention.
“Within the ranks of the Defence Forces, there is a very real uncertainty and even insecurity over the length of the service contracts under which they are employed.
“Since 1994, in a move that was intended to achieve a rolling turnover of members, allowing for the
continuing replenishment of numbers by new recruits, five-year duration contracts were introduced.
“These continue to be subject to members passing fitness and medical tests.
“This issue has a significant impact on both recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces.
“There is a currently a twenty-one-year limit to service. Which means that a young recruit who enlists at eighteen years of age, is effectively turfed out of their job by their late 30s.
“The only exceptions to this are for certain technical staff, and those lucky enough to achieve the rank of sergeant, who can remain in service until they reach fifty years of age.
“Our Defence Forces are woefully understaffed. The operational implications of this has been well reported, particularly on the impact it has had on the Naval Service.
“If we want young people to make a career in the Defence Forces, we need to make it an attractive career choice.
“At a very basic level they must be properly remunerated for the hours which they work, with proper working conditions, and a meaningful level of job security.
“I believe that if members of the Defence Forces are fit for duty, if they can pass the required fitness tests, along with the associated medical exams, they need to be allowed to be able to serve until they are fifty years of age.”