Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD today expressed his concern over the pressure being placed on members of the Defence Forces to overcommit to overseas deployments in order to compensate for the failure of the government to address the issue of retention of members of the Defence Forces.
The Wicklow TD said:
“The Minister has come out in recent days and has more or less announced a new doctrine for the Irish Defence Forces, which would commit Irish Forces to serve in dangerous peace enforcement missions in increasing numbers.
“This is at a time when crippling shortages of personnel are impacting the ability of the Defence Forces to carry out their core responsibilities domestically.
“At the outset, I want to say that not only do I support the participation of our Defence Forces in overseas missions, but I have a deep pride in the role that our forces have played in peacekeeping missions for decades.
“However, I have to seriously question what the Minister is hoping to achieve with this announcement. The Irish Defence Forces are seriously under-strength, particularly in the specialised areas which he has committed to future overseas deployments.
“In the business world, this is referred to as overtrading – committing to more work than you have the capacity to fulfil. And the Minister is seriously at risk of overextending the capacity of the Defence Forces to perform the role for which it is intended here in Ireland.
“This will exacerbate an already critical problem. Understaffing is undermining the morale of the Defence Forces. Ships are unable to take to sea, due to a shortage of skilled personnel. Because staffing levels are significantly less than they should be, members are also being forced to rotate overseas much more regularly.
“At any given time, 7% of the army is serving overseas, within the period of any one year up to 25% will be either deployed overseas or will be training in preparation for deployment.
“Last year, 23 officers who were mandated to serve overseas, a duty which was traditionally a voluntary assignment, appealed the decision. Sixteen of these officers were successful, but seven were forced to deploy. This is not sustainable.
“The failure of the Minister to address the retention crisis in the Defence Forces will eat into the hard-won credibility of the Defence Forces internationally.
“It is irresponsible to commit Irish forces to further overseas roles without outlining a clear and actionable plan that will provide a solution to the most pressing crisis in the Defence Forces.”