Not one former Defence Forces member re-inducted after Covid-19 recruitment drive

Three months after a new recruitment drive was unveiled to entice former members of the Defence Forces to rejoin, not one of the 646 applicants is back in uniform.
Not one former Defence Forces member re-inducted after Covid-19 recruitment drive
Sailors on board the Irish naval vessel LE Eithne as she prepared to depart the Cork city quays after the end of her role in support of the HSE in the fight against Covid-19 coronavirus.
Sailors on board the Irish naval vessel LE Eithne as she prepared to depart the Cork city quays after the end of her role in support of the HSE in the fight against Covid-19 coronavirus.

Three months after a new recruitment drive was unveiled to entice former members of the Defence Forces to rejoin, not one of the 646 applicants is back in uniform.

Just 12 have been chosen so far to be re-inducted, but there is still no date available for when this might happen.

The whole exercise has been described as “ridiculous” by a senior Naval Service Reserve (NSR) officer who himself applied to rejoin the full-time force.

There is growing frustration across the military at the slow pace, especially as Defence Forces numbers have fallen to their lowest in more than 50 years.

They are currently short more than 1,000 personnel and the Naval Service is suffering most. It has tied up two ships already because of manpower shortages and third may soon follow.

Eddie Mulligan, a former highly-experienced officer in the Naval Service, and who currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Service Reserve (NSR), was one of those who applied to rejoin.

He was rejected on age grounds, even though he maintained he was young enough to rejoin and carry out a three-year contact.

He even offered to take a drop in rank from Lieutenant Commander to Lieutenant.

Mr Mulligan, who is also deputy mayor of Waterford, said like many others he wanted to rejoin in the country's hour of need and aid the battle against Covid-19.

In the meantime, he did just that, volunteering to man LÉ Eithne during her 90-day deployment to help the HSE in the Cork region.

He was the first enlisted man in the history of the naval service to become an officer. He qualified as a watchkeeper (who controls a ship) at the British naval college in Dartmouth and as a diving officer trained in anti-mine warfare.

He has been involved in numerous drug seizures and fishery patrols.

The 52-year-old knows the Naval Service are really stretched for manpower and wanted to do his bit on a full-time basis.

He was rejected because he would reach the retirement age before the contract would expire.

The retirement age in the Naval Service is sooner than in the NSR, which is 57 for someone of his rank.

He has written back to the Defence Forces appealing the decision.

Naval patrol vessel L.É. Orla silhouetted against the rising Sun while at anchor near the Old Head of Kinsale Co. Cork. Picture David Creedon / Anzenberger
Naval patrol vessel L.É. Orla silhouetted against the rising Sun while at anchor near the Old Head of Kinsale Co. Cork. Picture David Creedon / Anzenberger

“We're supposed to be a single force concept now. It is ridiculous, and that's whether I'm accepted or not. This was part of a plan to help in a national crisis. The British and American navies are extending retirement ages to 60 so they can recruit more people," he said.

While the re-recruitment drive wasn't specifically designed to provide the Defence Forces with the manpower necessary to aid the country's fight against Covid-19, it was nevertheless billed as a “Your Country Needs You” rallying cry at the onset of the global pandemic.

A large number of those who applied to rejoin did so because of the virus threat.

Other applicants have told the Irish Examiner they are “deeply frustrated” at the delay.

The Irish Examiner has learnt that of the 646 who applied 377 were deemed to be ineligible for various reasons, including age.

In the mean time 20 withdrew their applications.

A source said a total of 237 are “still in the system,” meaning their applications are still being assessed.

Three months on 12 are said “to be at the finish line” but are still awaiting induction.

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