Claim fewer people leaving Defence Forces is disputed

Defence Forces officers’ representatives have disputed a claim by a Government minister that fewer people are leaving the service.

Claim fewer people leaving Defence Forces is disputed

Paul Kehoe, minister of state with responsibility for defence, said yesterday that there was no crisis in the Defence Forces, despite the findings of a survey of members highlighting major issues around pay, conditions and morale.

As revealed by the Irish Examiner in July, the survey by University of Limerick researchers found low pay was just one of a number of issues of concern at all ranks among the 800 men and women who took part.

Mr Kehoe told the RTÉ Radio 1 This Weekprogramme that there have been huge improvements on a number of issues since the survey was carried out in 2015.

One of the main worries of organisations representing Defence Forces personnel has been the loss of experienced highly-trained military officers.

The minister said there has been a huger reduction this year in the number of officers leaving the services.

However, Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) general secretary Lieutenant Colonel Earnán Naughton told the same programme that 77 officers have already left the Defence Forces so far this year, compared to 72 who departed in 2016.

He said the loss of such depth of experience was compromising the safety of those who serve, as well as being a waste of the resources invested in their training.

“All we’re hearing about is strategy for the future that has no implication for the present,” he said.

Mr Kehoe is scheduled to address the Race annual conference on Wednesday.

He said that he has already committed to reviewing contracts of enlisted personnel from 1994 to 2006, and a review of a conciliation and arbitration scheme for the Defence Forces.

He plans to name an independent review chairperson in the next two to three weeks.

Mr Kehoe said that the 100 cadets who have started in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps represents a big improvement on recent years.

He also said that three-start privates received a €5,000 pay increase backdated to July 2016, and that he and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe are making the Defence Forces a high priority in talks to address pay issues in the public service.

The Defence Forces expects to recruit more than 800 personnel this year, Mr Kehoe said, and the process for 300 non-commissioned officer promotions has also been commenced recently.

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