February 15, 2023
Government failures placing future of Reserve Defence Forces in danger – John Brady TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, challenged the Tánaiste Micheál Martin on his failure, and that of his predecessor as Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, to address the issue of recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces and the Reserve Defence Forces. 

With the combined personnel deficit in the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF) and the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) now just under 5,000, Brady described the current situation as being beyond a crisis and threatening the overall viability of both. 

Teachta Brady said:

“The current strength of the PDF is 7,987 – over 1,500 below the current establishment figure of 9,500. This makes a mockery of government ambitions to extend the establishment figure to 11,500.

“With the government budgeting for an increase of 400 personnel this year, which at this stage appears ambitious, it will still take most of a decade for the Defence Forces to achieve government targets. That is if they are successful in achieving their annual target, which based on current figures is not possible.

“It is absurd that when government figures compare Finland and Ireland to argue that Ireland should play an increased role in military alliances, they neglect to mention that Finland has a military reserve of 900,000 personnel, while Ireland has less than a thousand. 

“The RDF is currently 3,250 short of its minimum strength level of 4,069, which includes a naval reserve of 200. Last year, just 755 army reservists took part in paid training, along with 64 naval reservists. In 2007 there were 12,300 members of the RDF.

“Despite agreeing to increase the minimum naval reserve strength to 400, and to create an Air Corps reserve force of 200 for the first time, the government has failed in all of these objectives.

“The government’s failure to address the personnel in the RDF is even starker when we consider the fact that a short-lived recruitment campaign last March attracted 1,000 applications before the online portal had to be shut down because the Defence Forces did not have the resources to manage it.

“Of those who did apply, the majority pulled their applications following delay after delay in processing applications. 

“My understanding is that just 90 personnel were eventually recruited, which is somewhere in the region of 9% of those who applied.

“I pointed out in my submission that following a 2019 recruitment campaign there were 2,603 membership applications, 388 of whom were women applicants, which at 15% represented a figure double the average of women in the PDF. 

“Unfortunately, and an indication of what was to come, just 114 applicants were processed into the Defence Forces, and just ten of whom were women, representing a mere 9% of the eventual total. 

“The majority of applicants got fed up with the length of time that the induction process was taking. Lessons of failure are not being learned.

“A review undertaken by the Reserve Defence Forces Association has found that the RDF will cease to exist as an entity by 2026 unless serious action is taken by the government.

“The ball is now in the Minister’s court. He must act decisively, and he must act immediately, or the state will cease to possess a reserve military force.” 

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