Fitness tests for women seeking a career in the armed forces need to be made less “intimidating”, Defence Minister Simon Coveney has said.
Mr Coveney said Ireland needed to do more to attract women into the services, as at present the Defence Forces are 94% male.
The minister said the country had to do more to make a defence career more female-friendly because the UN had asked Ireland to work towards providing women-only units that could be used in sensitive post-conflict peacekeeping missions.
Mr Coveney said the defence budget needs to increase by €65m from €885m over the next five years as commitments increased and public service pay began to rise again.
“Only 6% are women, and that is not good enough, so we are changing the requirements to attract more women.
“We are changing the physical tests as some women have said that they find them intimidating.
“But if you are going to be a soldier, sailor or member of the air corps, you need to be fit and strong,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ.
The minister said Ireland was aiming to go into niche areas of peacekeeping after the UN requested a women- only unit to help deal with the aftermath of gender-based violence.
Mr Coveney has said that his initial aim is to double the number of women in the 9,500 strong defence forces.
The minister also believes conflict and security threats are changing and Ireland needs to be prepared.
“Cyber-attacks, transnational organised crime, international terrorism, drug trafficking, people smuggling, piracy and the effects of climate change do not respect international borders,” Mr Coveney said.
Also speaking in his role as Agriculture Minister, Mr Coveney denied Ireland was not doing its bit to help save the environment.
“Ireland is doing more on agriculture in terms of its impact on global warming than any other country in the world,” Mr Coveney said.
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