Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has expressed his deep concern at the number of naval patrol days which have had to be cancelled in the past year due to personnel shortages.
Teachta Brady said:
“I recently put a series of questions to the Minister in relation to my concerns at the number of naval patrol days which had to be cancelled due to personnel issues over the last year.
“My concerns centred primarily on the impact of the government’s failure to retain and recruit sufficient personnel to maintain the minimum numbers necessary for the Defence Forces to fulfil their obligations towards state security.
“In the first six months of 2021, 118 naval patrol days were cancelled for personnel reasons. This compared to 28 patrols in the whole of last year. This is a shocking indictment of the government’s defence policy.
“Between 2015 and 2017 not a single naval patrol day was lost for personnel reasons. Since then we have witnessed a growing and worrying trend that has just exploded this year. When the government talks of personnel issues, they are talking about their failure to make a career in the Defence Forces an attractive proposition for potential recruits. They are talking about their failure to retain experienced and qualified personnel, without which naval vessels cannot go to sea.
“We are at a critical juncture; we are approaching the point where our Defence Forces will no longer be able to carry out their core duties and provide security to the state. The government needs to act, and act now.
“An Island nation, with a naval service unable to take to the sea, is a vulnerable nation. It is a nation whose borders are open to drugs, contraband and people smuggling. The crisis in the Defence Forces is no longer an issue that affects the Defence Forces alone, it is now an issue for our communities, particularly those who suffer the brunt of the drugs epidemic.”