Almost a year after the Defence Forces indicated its determination to increase the number of women in its ranks, the percentage of female participants has actually fallen.
Last August, it was reported that the Army’s total strength was 7,364, while the Naval Service had 1,006 personnel, and the Air Corps a total of 762.
At that point, the Army had the highest percentage of women at 6.3%, followed by the Naval Service with 6.1%, and the Air Corps at 4.7%.
Fast forward a year and figures from the Department of Defence show that the numbers in the Army have marginally decreased to 7,263, the total for the Air Corps fell to 731, while the Naval Service total had risen slightly to 1,032.
However, while the percentage of women in the Army has held steady at 6.3%, in the Air Corps it has fallen to 4.2% and in the Naval Service it has dropped to 5.7%.
The declines came despite the Defence Forces saying 12 months ago that it was going to send female members of all three divisions into schools to specifically target young women in order to bolster their representation.
“The Defence Forces does not have a pre-determined ratio of men and women that will be recruited. However we are actively encouraging females to consider joining the Army,” a spokesman said. “It is a goal to increase the overall percentage of females in the Defence Forces which is currently at around 6% of the overall force.”
The number of Defence Forces personnel now stands at 9,026, significantly below the 9,500 “agreed stabilised strength” figure. Yesterday, Defence Minister Simon Coveney launched a recruitment campaign for general service recruits for the Army, saying the campaign was seeking “young men and women from all backgrounds and ethnic groups” that possess a strong sense of duty, enjoy working as part of a team, and are looking for a rewarding career”.
Mr Coveney said: “I am also committed to ensuring that we have a permanent Defence Force that fully represents the modern Ireland in all of its dimensions, including gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, and the current campaign will endeavour to reach out to all those groups.”
The Army enlists about 350 general service recruits annually. The Defence Forces spokesman said: “Throughout the course of the recruitment competition videos aimed at a female audience will be uploaded on our YouTube channel and profiles of serving female soldiers will be posted on our Facebook pages Irish Defence Forces and Irish Defence Forces Recruitment.”
The recruitment competition will be run through a centralised online application system on military.ie. The closing date for applications is September 4.
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