Minister misses opportunity to address recruitment and retention crisis in our Defence Forces - John Brady TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD has expressed serious reservations regarding the failure of the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney to take the necessary measures to address the recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces.
He welcomed the decision to grant additional funding, on the back of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces Report, but maintained that the Minister had missed an opportunity to address substantial wider issues.
The Wicklow TD said:
“Sinn Féin supports the introduction of ‘Level of Ambition’ 2, as contained in the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces Report. But this should be front-loaded by a strategic focus on the issues of recruitment and retention.
“Ireland’s status as an independent, sovereign and neutral state requires that we maintain a Defence Forces with the material and human resources necessary to guarantee our security.
“For decades, successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments have overseen the erosion of our Defence Forces’ capacity to the point where we now have a recruitment and retention crisis.
“This crisis now represents the single biggest threat to the security of the state.
“Minister Coveney had an opportunity today to pursue a strategic direction that would address this. Unfortunately, he chose instead to pay lip service to it.
“I welcome the decision to expand the bandwidth of the military service allowance to include those personnel with less than three years’ service.
“But I know that already, having spoken to members of the Defence Forces throughout the day, that today’s announcement is being met with disappointment by the rank-and-file.
“The Minister has decided to park the issues that primarily concern the rank-and-file.
“The issues of long service increments, introducing the rank of Lance Corporal, and the rationalisation of the Patrol Duty Allowance for members of the Naval Service - these have all been kicked to touch. Or, in the Minister's words, ‘sent forward for further evaluation’.
“The failure to address the Working Time Directive, which has been sent on to the Attorney General, is another matter of concern, as this is a significant issue in terms of the recruitment and retention crisis.
“Without creating a specific timeline to address these issues, this announcement will be viewed with disappointment by members of the Defence Forces, many of whom have deferred a decision on their future careers pending the outcome of the Minister’s announcement.
“We need to see a comprehensive plan for the implementation of the other aspects of the Commission Report.
“Unfortunately, the government has a shocking record of delivering on previous defence commitments, including failing to implement key proposals from the Defence White Paper, which has contributed to the creation of the current crisis.
“Instead of addressing in any substantial manner the issue of recruitment and retention within the Defence Forces, the Minister has set a target of achieving a new establishment figure of 11,500 within six years.
“When we currently have 500 members a year leaving, and given our Defence Forces are currently approximately 1,200 below the old establishment figure of 9,500, the real recruitment target will be over 6,000 within the timeframe offered by the Minister.
“Considering the fact that at least ten percent of those recruited to the Defence Forces do not make it through basic training, the government must oversee the recruitment of at least 1,000 to 1,200 new recruits annually for the next six years.
“The fact that this has never been achieved in the history of the state leaves little room for optimism.”