The organisation representing enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces has said recruitment in the Naval Service has reached a new crisis point and the only way to solve it is with pay increases to retain personnel.
Latest figures obtained by PDforra show there were nearly 800 expressions of interest in the latest recruitment drive for the service.
However, PDforra president Mark Keane said that 50 were initially asked to attend for interviews and medical/fitness tests, but just six turned up to fill a recruit class that is supposed to be 48-strong.
He said on average nearly one-in-five inducted into recruit classes opt out before they are fully trained and more leave quickly afterwards because the pay is so poor.
"Of five recruits who joined a branch last year just one remains. One young recruit cited that he was leaving because he was better paid as a hotel porter. A lot leaving are saying it's down to the money," Mr Keane said.
He claimed the advertising campaign for the Defence Forces recruitment drive was costing in the region of €400,000.
"Allied to that there's the expense of medicals, blood tests and training etc. This money would be better spent on giving personnel better pay which would fix the retention issue," he said.
In 2017 the Minister (Paul Keogh) said he would redress the retention issue yet nothing has been done.
The Defence Forces' officers association, RACO, said it was disappointed the recruitment drive wasn't bearing fruit.
"RACO has always said that we cannot recruit our way out of this crisis. It's only through tangible retention initiatives and improved pay and conditions that the Defence Forces can once again become an attractive career for young people," RACO general secretary Commandant Conor King said.
"Placing recruitment over retention puts an additional strain on our already overburdened training staff," he added.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on Defence, Deputy Jack Chambers, described the latest Naval Service recruitment figures as "deeply concerning, but not surprising."
"It has been clear for all to see for some time now that we are facing a retention and recruitment crisis within the Defence Forces. It’s becoming impossible to attract young people, to what was once an exciting and enticing career, because they know the pay and conditions are simply not good enough," Mr Chambers said.
He said the failure of the Minister and his Department to acknowledge the recruitment crisis is exacerbating the situation.
"I understand there was a massive PR campaign to promote this (recruitment) competition, but the numbers following through to the final stages of the competition speak for themselves. I'd like to know how much has been spent on this campaign and what is the cost per recruit? This is not smart management of Defence Forces resources. If (recruitment) continues to miss the White Paper target for optimum Defence Forces numbers and this campaign shows we are heading for a big future depletion of numbers if this continues," he said.