John Brady TD calls on Government to act to preserve effectiveness of the Defence Forces
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has called on the Minister for Defence to act to prevent a further deterioration in the effectiveness of the country’s naval service.
Teachta Brady said: “We are currently in a situation where our naval and Air Corp services are close to one fifth below their recommended operating staffing levels. While all branches of the Defence Forces are understaffed, the naval service in particular is witnessing a continuing loss of personnel, which cannot be sustained. The primary reason for this lies in the poor levels of pay to service members.
“As an Island we depend upon our naval service to defend our territorial waters. The naval service also carries out important work in the areas of fisheries, and anti-drugs patrols.
“As a nation, our sense of our role in the international community, our sense of duty and compassion, our sense of what we are capable of contributing to the wider world was illustrated by the performance of our service personnel in the Mediterranean in recent years. The Irish Navy was responsible for the saving of 18,000 civilians during its operational tour there in recent years.
“But we have a situation currently, where the naval service is witnessing the loss of highly skilled personnel, primarily to the private sector. To the degree that its ability to fulfil its core duties will inevitably become compromised.
“Last year 139 members left the naval service, with many more signalling an intent to leave. There is a current deficit of approx. of 40% at the rank of Lieutenant. There are a further 138 vacant positions among the Junior NCO ranks.
“The real difficulty lies in the loss of technically skilled personnel, due to the length of time it takes to train up replacements. Some technical positions require six years of training. There are 20 vacancies for senior electricians, 28 for Petty Officer Engine Room Artificers. There are currently 6 electronic technicians available – the naval service requires a minimum of 18. Without these personnel, a ship simply cannot put to sea.
“There are undoubted challenges to serving at sea, on a two-year rotation (two years at sea, followed by two ashore), personnel can expect to be at sea 160 days. This obviously places a strain on families. Key skilled personnel must be paid appropriately. The Irish people are proud of the role of positive neutrality our country has played. A position that is challenged by the active running down of our defence forces. “This government must act to secure the operational capacity of our Defence Forces before we arrive at the critical point that they are no longer in a position to fulfil their role on behalf of the Irish people.”