Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has expressed concern at revelations that a further two naval vessels are being placed in reserve over the next number of weeks as a result of the failure of the government to address the crippling recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces.
This will mean that at a time of heightened international crisis, the naval service will be reduced to having four vessels to patrol Irish waters.
The Wicklow TD said:
“Today’s revelations that the LE Róisín and the LE Niamh are to be effectively taken out of service, as a direct consequence of the failure of the government to address the crippling recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces, represents a staggering failure for Minister Martin and the government.
“Despite having set themselves a target of recruiting an additional 2,000 members to the Defence Forces, the current strength of the Defence Forces is close to being 1,500 under strength.
“While this is both damning and alarming, it could be avoided if the government took the appropriate measures to address the issues at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis.
“The fact is that the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces Report, much lauded by government, made recommendations that would go a long way towards meeting the concerns that are driving members of the Defence Forces to leave the various branches of the service to take up roles in the private sector.
“It is no coincidence that the vast majority of recommendations that deal with the concerns of the members of the Defence Forces have not been addressed.
“The Working Time Directive has still not been implanted, patrol duty allowances have not been adequately addressed, with pension arrangements remaining a matter of contention.
“Despite these failings, the government is spending hundreds of millions on two vessels, which will arrive from New Zealand in a number of months, even though it is difficult to imagine how these vessels will be able to go to sea, with the lack of available naval personnel to staff them.
“With falling numbers of personnel, remaining members are being forced to perform more roles, for longer hours. This is having a hugely detrimental effect on any attempt to achieve a work life balance for members. It is little wonder that the private sector finds it so easy to recruit members from the Defence Forces.
“The continuing failure of the government to address this crisis is undermining the security and sovereignty of the state. The government must act, and it must act immediately to address the recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces, before they are reduced to the point where they can no longer fulfil their obligations to the state.”