The country's second line of defence has been depleted to such an extent the Army's Reserve is now nearly a third of its proper strength and association which represents them says Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, needs to address this as a matter of urgency.
When the Reserve Defence Force Representative Association (RDFRA) met with Mr Coveney in February 2015 to discuss a meaningful role for its members, the Army Reserve had 2,001 personnel and the Naval Service Reserve had 126.
However, latest figures show the Army Reserve has fallen to 1,541 effective personnel, which is 39% of its proper strength which should be 3,869.
Meanwhile, the Naval Service Reserve is at 122, which is at 61% of its strength. It should be at least 200.
But the 2015 White Paper on Defence said that strength should be increased to 300.
RDFRA general secretary Neil Richardson said:
If any element of the Permanent Defence Forces had fallen in strength to such a level the Defence Forces would literally cease to function.
Even five years ago the RDFRA had highlighted the need to address recruitment and retention of reserves.
Mr Richardson claimed that even though the meeting took place with Mr Coveney before the publication of the 2015 White Paper on Defence, no meaningful role was assigned to the Reserve in that document, despite RDFRA’s earlier calls for same.
“It is an often-repeated mantra that ‘only the Reserve can save the Reserve’. To some extent, this is a true statement, but if hard-working reservists are double and triple-jobbing in their military capacities (regularly in an exclusively voluntary/unpaid capacity), often while trying to implement positive change in various areas based on their years of experience, but having such efforts prove fruitless, it is easy to see why so many become frustrated.
“Constant claims that higher authorities value the commitment and enthusiasm of reservists are rendered meaningless in the face of the erosion of the Reserve in recent years. Couple all this with the demands of reservists’ civilian employments, and the fact that a large amount of reserve service is voluntary and unpaid, it is a small wonder that there is anyone left in the Reserve at all,” Mr Richardson said.
He said the remaining personnel, many of whom hold impressive qualifications of great military value, are truly dedicated to the State and to the Defence Forces.
Why else would they stay? They have no contractual obligations to remain in uniform. Therefore, it is grossly unfair that this dedication is being exploited; that the Reserve is constantly being pushed to see how far its members will go before they break and resign from the organisation.
“Now, in 2020, there are new agenda items to add to any future meeting with the Minister, but sadly the agenda points from 2015 still stand today. The Reserve needs a meaningful role for the future, it needs to be properly resourced, and it needs legislative and regulatory supports to achieve its full potential,” he added.
He said his association sincerely hopes Mr Coveney can deliver these vital requirements.