'A very poor standard': Calibre of Defence Forces recruits ‘reduced’

By Sean O’Riordan, Defence Correspondent

A damning report has highlighted the reduced calibre of recruits in the Defence Forces, concluding that some had severe learning difficulties, others were extremely unfit, and one had been arrested numerous times by gardaí.

Some officers within the Defence Forces have queried vetting procedures as the report claims they were unaware of that person’s past until it was pointed out by another recruit.

Garda vetting is not carried out in many cases before recruits are inducted into training. This is because of the need to speed up recruitment to replace the haemmorage of highly trained personnel who are leaving the Defence Forces for better pay and conditions in the private sector.

Garda vetting of recruits can take between three and six months to complete.

The leaked draft report also stated that one of the recruits thought he was on a trainee officer’s course, rather than on one for enlisted personnel.

It also stated that a number of the recruits in one recruitment class had learning difficulties that inhibited them from completing the training course.

Sources within the Defence Forces have said that while the Department of Defence has tried to accelerate recruitment, the numbers deemed suitable is falling and some recruitment classes are barely viable because of this.

The classified report was compiled to provide senior Defence Forces officers with a snapshot of ongoing recruitment and concluded that, in general, there was “a very poor standard of recruit”.

It also highlighted the very short notice given to provide suitably qualified training staff to oversee the recruit class.

Neither of the Defences Forces representative organisations — Raco for officers and PDForra for enlisted personnel — are allowed to comment on operational issues such as the leaked report.

However, both organisations have constantly highlighted the likelihood that the calibre of recruits would be reduced because of competition from the better- paid private sector, and that security could be compromised due to a lack of garda vetting.

Members of the Defences Forces are the lowest paid of all public servants.

Last July, 65 recruits were called to the Naval Service headquarters in Haulbowline, Co Cork, to undertake medical and fitness tests. Just six turned up for a recruitment class that was supposed to be up to 48-strong.

The manpower shortage is being acutely felt in the naval service. Its flagship, the LÉ Eithne, recently had to call up naval service reserves because it did not have an adequate number of crew members for a routine patrol.

The improved economy is also hitting recruitment to the army and Raco has previously warned that the exodus of highly trained personnel is leaving it operationally compromised and putting safety at risk.

A Defence Forces’ statement issued last night said that, following the completion of career courses, they routinely carry out a review process to improve procedures and course content for subsequent iterations of each course. In order for this process to be effective, the conduct of courses, from the lead-in through to completion, needs to be questioned thoroughly and honestly.

The statement said: “It is the responsibility of the personnel running courses and recruitment campaigns to address any challenges and prevent as much as possible their re-occurrence, as well as to identify the positive aspects and incorporate them into future courses.

“Each phase of a course carries with it its own unique challenges and issues which are dealt with at the time, and later highlighted during the after-action review process.”

The Defence Forces added that, after induction as a recruit, suitability to serve as a member of the Defence Forces is constantly monitored and approximately 22% of each group do not complete training for various reasons.

“This reflects a long-term trend and the Defence Forces are satisfied that those who complete training have met the required standard,” said a Defence Forces statement.

“The Defence Forces does not comment on individual course after- action reviews, their contents, or any of the specifics of individual courses.”

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