The number of recruits paying to get out of the Defence Forces before their training has even finished confirms claims the retention crisis can't be overcome by major recruitment drives alone.
Figures obtained by Jack Chambers, Fianna Fáil spokesman for Defence, show that 861 personnel paid to get out of the army, naval service and air corps from 2016 to 2018. Of those, 400 were recruits in training.
In total, all those getting their discharge papers over the three-year period had to pay the Department of Defence a combined €356,813.07 to leave.
Last year 113 recruits purchased their discharges out of a total of 611 recruited across the three branches of the Defence Forces.
A further 177 seasoned soldiers, sailors and aircrew opted to get out as well. The 290 in total who chose this path had to pay the Department of Defence €143,782.60 to quit.
In 2017 there were 315 personnel who paid €109,233.49 in total to get their discharge papers. Of the 751 trainees inducted that year, 164 recruits also bailed out in mid-training.
In 2016 there were a further 256 personnel who bought their way out. Of the 690 who entered training that year there were 123 who quit early.
The total cost for all of them to get out was €103,796.98. Furthermore, there were hundreds each year who were forced to leave the Defence Forces because they had reached retirement age. Both RACO, the association which represents Defence Forces officers, and PDForra, the representative body for enlisted personnel, have consistently said that even mass recruitment is failing to keep pace with the numbers leaving.
They have repeatedly said that the Department of Defence needs to put far more emphasis on retaining experienced personnel, who are leaving in their droves for better pay and conditions in the private sector.
Mr Chambers said the figures he obtained from the Department of Defence were "further evidence of the crippling morale crisis in the Defence Forces which is causing the mass, unsustainable exodus".
“It is deeply worrying that so many are willing to fork out thousands of euros to buy their way out of the Defence Forces because they are so unhappy," Mr Chambers said.
He described the exodus from the Naval Service as "very worrying" because already they've had to put two vessels in for refits because they haven't the crews to man them.
"The (increasing) trend would suggest even more ships will have to be docked because we will not have the personnel to man them safely," he said.
Mr Chambers said it is also worrying that almost half of those who sought to buy their way out over the last three years are recruits who had just recently joined up.
"These people should be the most energised, excited and optimistic about their new career choice. Instead, we see them leaving in their droves. They see no viable future for themselves in the Defence Forces because of the dreadfully poor pay and conditions associated with the Defence Forces."