Eighty-five members of the Irish Defence Forces have tested positive for illegal drugs since compulsory random checks were introduced in 2003.
The tests, which were carried out by members of the Irish army, navy, air corps and reserves, are designed to detect the presence of illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Figures provided by the minister for defence in response to a parliamentary question this week reveal that 16,804 such tests have been performed since the practice was introduced in 2003.
A total of 85 members of the Defence Forces have tested positive for illegal drugs during that time, representing just 0.51% of the overall number of completed tests.
However, there has been a marked increase in the number testing positive in recent years. In the first nine years following the introduction of random checks, an average of six personnel tested positive for illegal drugs each year.
But this figure increased substantially in 2012 when 16 members tested positive. Last year, 13 members tested positive despite a fall in the number of tests performed to its lowest ever level.
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said the Irish Defence Forces continues to be a leading organisation with regard to workplace drug testing in Ireland.
“Compulsory Random Drug Testing [CRDT] and Targeted Drug Testing [TDT] support the Defence Forces’ policy on drug and substance abuse or misuse. This is based on the premise that unlawful possession, supply or use of a controlled substance is incompatible with membership of the Defence Forces.
“In order to provide a credible deterrent, the testing programme is devised to ensure that all Defence Forces personnel are liable for testing through random selection,” he added.
Mr Coveney said that ‘appropriate administrative action’ was taken in all cases in which a member of the Defence Forces tested positive for an illegal substance.
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