A record high of military personnel last year failed drug tests carried out by the Defence Forces.
According to figures provided by the Department of Defence, 17 members of the Defence Forces last year failed random drug tests.
Five members failed drug tests in 2014; 13 failed in 2013; and 16 failed in 2012.
The Defence Forces operate a zero-tolerance policy towards drug taking as it is seen as incompatible with membership; all necessary measures are taken to achieve a drug-free society within the organisation. The primary objective of the Defence Forces drug-testing regime is deterrence.
According to the department, the Defence Forces drug-testing team carried out 13 operations last year, testing a total of 1,184 personnel — some 98.56% proved negative.
The Defence Forces is committed to testing 10% of members each year. Of the 1,184 tested, 773 were examined in army brigades, with 51 from the Defence Forces HQ, 76 in the naval service, and 230 in the air corps.
The drug-testing programme was introduced in 2003. Since then, 105 Defence Force personnel have tested positive from a total 18,514 examined.
A spokesman for the Defence Forces representative organisation, PDForra, said: “We take the issue of drug-taking seriously and recognise the need to have drug testing procedures in place.”
He would not be drawn on the increase in positive tests last year.
In the testing regime, the teams call in unannounced and select their subjects at random. Those who test positive face three options: They can retire; be discharged or face withdrawal of a cadetship; or continue in service if they can make a case that taking the drug was inadvertent or the result of some circumstance, such as a spiked drink.
Those who test positive for a controlled drug, as specified in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, are subject to an administrative process, including the testing of a B sample if requested.
In the past, some of those disciplined as a result of testing positive have challenged the decision in court.
In relation to the 17 members who tested positive, the department said that “appropriate administrative action ensued in all cases”. At the end of last year, two members of the Defence Forces were subject to targeted drug-testing.
A spokeswoman for the Defence Forces said yesterday: “Compulsory random drugs testing and targeted drugs testing 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.”
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