He stated 800 personnel will be recruited before the end of this year and a similar number in 2018 which would bring the Defence Forces back to its proper strength of 9,500 personnel.
Mr Keogh, who has responsibility for Defence, said pay will be increased for a newly qualified three-star private to €27,000 a year and he hoped to get further increases through the Public Service Pay Commission, which will conduct a comprehensive examination and analysis of underlying difficulties in recruitment and retention.
He was responding to PDForra general secretary Gerry Guinan who claimed a 30% turnover of personnel in the Defence Forces in the past five years has led to a “significant loss of corporate knowledge which, in turn, may result in injury and death of our comrades.”
Mr Guinan said it takes up to four or five years to replace technicians and the response of the department to the potential loss of such personnel “has been pitiful”.
“Additionally, the apparent view of the department that general service recruits can be replaced at shorter periods without negatively impacting on the organisation cannot be further from the truth,” he said.
“The Department of Defence will lose and has, I am sure, lost potential candidates through a reasonably held perception that the Defence Forces is not a good employer, and that the risks and rewards associated with service currently outweigh any sense of adventure and patriotism that may be held by potential candidates.”
Mr Guinan told delegates at the association’s annual conference it was wrong to deny Defence Forces personnel protection of the EU Working Time Directive.
“This legislation was enacted with the intent of protecting workers’ health and safety and it has come as no surprise to learn from our own department that retired soldiers, sailors and aircrew die younger than the national average by a significant period. This premature ending of life for veterans could, in this association’s belief, be attributed to a difficult working environment where personnel are exposed to greater danger and stress than the wider populace.”
He said the EU directive had been adopted by many other European armed forces and it was “disgraceful” it wasn’t applied here.
He also criticised delays in the payment of expenses and allowances to his members, who were already struggling on poor pay.
“The numbers applying for the Defence Forces have decreased by over 50% in the last five years, and are likely to further decrease in a rising economy.... we have a problem, minister, a very big problem,” Mr Guinan added.
Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett said the past number of years have proved challenging for many sectors of society including some of the men, women and families of Óglaigh Na hÉireann.
“During my visits to military installations at home and to our personnel serving abroad, I have encountered at first hand some of the real concerns, that some of our people are experiencing. Despite our many challenges and commitments both at home and overseas, we continue to punch well above our weight,” he said.
He hoped the measures announced by the minister, along with an action plan he was also working on, would help with retention.