May 20, 2024
Government’s misplaced priorities has created crisis in Defence Forces numbers – Matt Carthy TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Matt Carthy TD, has said that the ‘misplaced priorities’ of Micheál Martin and the government are responsible for the continuing deterioration of capacity within the Defence Forces.

Teachta Carthy said that Defence Forces numbers have reached crisis levels after nearly one-quarter of Defence Forces personnel left the organisation in under 18 months.

Deputy Carthy called on the Tánaiste to ‘focus on the reasons that highly qualified and committed personnel continue to leave the Defence Forces, rather than undermining Irish neutrality’.

Teachta Carthy said:

“More people have left the Defence Forces than joined every year under this government and Tánaiste. Our Defence Forces numbers are now at crisis levels.

“Rather than seize the opportunity and goodwill fostered by the Commission on the Defence Forces and implement the required reforms needed to move to Level of Ambition 2 (LOA2) over a 10 year period, government have instead prioritised removing the triple-lock neutrality protection, withdrawing from an important UN peacekeeping mission, and have failed to allocated the level of capital expenditure required.

“Between 2020 and 2023 an average of 743 Defence Forces personnel have retired or been discharged each year, the number expected due to age or years served should be only a little above 100.

“What is truly staggering is that over the same period, an average of 289 serving Defence Forces personnel have actually paid to be discharged.

“This has very real consequences in terms of our ability to maintain naval vessels and aircraft, being able to put ships to sea and meet the bare minimum in terms of naval patrol days, and most recently was effectively the reason for Ireland withdrawing from the important UNDOF peacekeeping mission to the Golan Heights.

“The legacy of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in government is a weakened Defence Forces and the squandering of the opportunity presented by the Commission on the Defence Forces.

“The Sinn Féin alternative is one that is committed to delivering the capital investment required by LOA2 now, rather than deferring it until 2028 as the government intends. Our legislative priority is to implement the Working Time Directive and to further improve the conditions of our Defence Forces. It is an alternative that recognises the scale of the challenge to rebuild our Defence Forces. Sinn Féin will prioritise those measures required to deliver upon the reforms and funding necessary to do so.

“On the other hand, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are prioritising the undermining of Irish neutrality. They should focus on the reasons that highly qualified and committed personnel continue to leave the Defence Forces, rather than abolishing the triple-lock neutrality protections.”

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