February 24, 2021
Sorca Clarke TD expresses concern at understaffing of Irish Naval Service

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence, Sorca Clarke TD, has expressed concern regarding staff shortages in the Naval Service. 

Teachta Clarke said:

“It’s concerning to hear news of ships going to sea with skeleton crews of the bare minimum staff required in order to run the ships. This apparently has been the case last year with our 6 operational ships often having to cancel operations and patrols due to crew members being absent or sick.

“Recent reports have suggested that the purchase of a new flagship to replace the LÉ Eithne had to be shelved due to shortages of crew members. The Minister needs to clarify if this is true or not. 

“What I find astounding is that if the government was willing to spend over €200 million on a new ship why won’t it invest in providing better conditions and pay for the crew that man them? This way we would provide a decent standard of living for our sailors and retain the personnel we invested in training.

“A tender was due to have been placed in January for the appointments of consultants for the purchase but was not. If this is due to the shortages the Minister should say so. Given the recent purchases of two smaller vessels to patrol the Irish Sea post-Brexit it is hard to see where the numbers would be found to crew a new ship.

“Our Naval Service is supposed to have a minimum number of 1,094 personnel serving at any one time. The emphasis there should be on the word ‘minimum’. This minimum is set to ensure that the crews won’t go down to a level where the safety, efficiency and functioning of the Naval Service is jeopardised. Currently, the we have just over 900 crew members in the Naval Service.

“Given the government’s order that the number of available ships must not be reduced they have a duty to ensure these ships are fully staffed and are not sitting tied up in ports with partial crews or worse still sailing without a full compliment. 

“The government must now invest in its crew members. Wise spending now will save us money in the long run. An increase in the Patrol Duty Allowance would to levels that are competitive with those of other seagoing agencies and an increase in pay for technical staff competitive with the pharmaceutical and other companies that are headhunting them will save the government money given the costs associated with a short staffed Naval Service, from outsourcing of duties to wasted training investments. 

“High turnover rates are a problem throughout the Defence Forces which must be addressed. They are especially significant in the Naval Service but must be addressed right across the service branches. The upcoming Commission on the Defence Forces gives us an opportunity to reverse this trend.”

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