Defence loses €1m as 180 recruits join force

The Irish Naval Service's new vessel the LÉ Samuel Beckett on the Marina en route to Cork.

Some 180 recruits are about to be taken into the Army just as the overall funding for Department of Defence will be cut by €1m, next year.

Defence Minister Simon Coveney said the recruits, due to start at the end of the year, are in addition to the 220 currently in training.

The intake is to ensure the total strength of the Defence Forces is kept at 9,500, the minister said at his briefing.

Under Budget 2015, the department sees a slight reduction in funding, from €676.9m in 2014 to €675.9m next year. The Army pensions is €221m, the same as 2014.

Mr Coveney said that his department had suffered years of cutbacks but, despite this, had commissioned two vessels for the Naval Service.

The LÉ Samuel Beckett was delivered this year and the LÉ James Joyce will arrive early in 2015.

Mr Coveney said a third offshore patrol vessel, as yet unnamed, has been ordered and will be delivered in 2016.

The Cork South-Central TD said each vessel cost in the region of €70m each.

“This budget is significant for the Department of Defence and we look forward to brighter prospects paving the way for a White Paper on Defence,” he said.

“The White Paper will provide an opportunity to ensure that a strategic approach to defence is in place, including necessary resourcing, for the next 10 years.”

He said the Defence Forces provided a range of functions, including in relation to national security. These include cash-in-transit escorts — of which there were 1,995 in 2013, compared to 2,039 in 2011.

The Army were involved in 250 bomb call-outs in 2013, compared to 237 in 2011. The Navy was engaged in 1,382 patrol days in 2013, compared to 1,480 in 2011.

Mr Coveney said that, as of last October, 420 members of the Defence Forces were serving in 14 overseas operations, with 195 in Lebanon and 135 in Syria.

In relation to the new rotation dispatched to the Golan Heights, Mr Coveney said he had no reports of altercations or difficulties experienced by them. He said the vast majority of UN personnel were on the Israeli side of the demilitarised zone.

He said it was “unlikely” that the Irish troops would encounter any difficulties by being dragged into the Syrian civil war.

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