Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has spoken today on the first anniversary of the publication of the report of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces (CODF).
One year on and the government’s failure to implement key recommendations designed to address the recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces have left the Defence Forces strength levels below 8,000.
The Wicklow TD said:
“A year ago, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney heralded the publication of the report from the Commission as a seminal moment for the Defence Forces, and as a landmark document that would offer a blueprint for the government and the department of Defence to address the crippling recruitment and retention crisis.
“Last July, when the government accepted the report of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces, they assumed an obligation to act to introduce wide ranging reforms on recruitment, pay, and pensions.
“Instead, they either deferred or accepted in principle – kicking down the road several key recommendations essential to addressing the recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces for further evaluation.
“The failure of government to act on the key recommendations designed to address the pay and conditions issues that lie at the heart of the continuing recruitment and retention crisis. Which is decimating the Defence Forces.
“The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Micheál Martin, has yet to provide a satisfactory response as to what the current situation is regarding these recommendations.
“The government has yet to implement the Working Time Directive, despite accepting a recommendation in the CODF Report that it do so in July of last year. At the time it was agreed that within six months, the heads of Bill would be finalised and submitted to the Attorney General’s office.
“Why are we still waiting?
“Why are members of the naval service serving 320 days in a single year aboard ship?
“Why are members of the Defence Forces regularly working 70-hour shifts?
“This is not acceptable or sustainable, and it will continue to erode the very fabric of the Defence Forces, who are approaching breaking point. While members are being asked to take on more and more responsibilities, working longer and longer hours, the government continues to dither.
“Members are voting with their feet. For the first time, the current strength of the permanent defence forces (PDF) has now fallen below 8,000, to 7,987. This is a staggering 1,543 below the established strength of the PDF.
“The crisis is affecting all branches of the PDF. The army is down to 6478, which is 1042 below the establishment figure. The Air Corp is reduced to 709, which is 177 below the establishment figure. While the Naval Service is now reduced to 800, which is 294 below the establishment figure.
“Just this past weekend, the Reserve Defence Forces Representative Association stated that the Defence Forces Reserve is no 3,250 below that of the minimum required strength level. Last year just 755 army reservists undertook paid training along with a mere 64 reservists in the naval service.
“With the government effectively placing the LE Niamh, and the LE Róisín in cold storage, the naval service is now reduced to four vessels. In January alone, the navy was forced to cancel 12 scheduled patrol days.
“The Defence Forces are approaching a point where they will be unable to continue to fulfil their role in providing security to the state.
“The responsibility lies with this government. Its continuing failure to act is endangering the security of the state.
“The government needs to give an immediate commitment to implement the recommendations contained in the CODF Report concerning pay and conditions. They cannot continue to ignore the fact that members of the Defence Forces are voting with their feet and leaving to take up roles in the private sector for more money and better conditions.”