Pension payments for former members of the Defence Forces and their dependents amounted to more than €230 million last year, as 636 ex-military personnel joined the growing ranks of the retired.
A total of 13,247 individuals are now on the military pension payroll — almost 4,700 more than are currently serving in the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF), according to records released under freedom of information laws.
Military personnel recruited after 1994 are required to retire after 20 years of service if they have not been promoted to sergeant, while the vast majority of officers must retire by the age of 58.
The retirement rules have been criticised by representative body PDFORRA, which said “it makes no logical sense to discharge both medically and physically fit personnel from service”.
A total of 3,679 members have left the Defence Forces in the past five years, the majority of whom did so with “some form of pension”, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney revealed earlier this month. More than €1.1 billion was paid to military retirees or their dependents during that period.
Of the 13,247 individuals who received a pension from the Defence Forces last year, 9,086 were retired privates or NCOs (non-commissioned officers) who were paid a total of nearly €150.7 million.
The spouses or children of 1,117 deceased privates or NCOs who had been in receipt of military pensions were paid almost €7.9 million in 2020.
A total of 1,808 retired officers received €59.5 million in pension payments during the same period, while the spouses or children of 295 deceased officers were paid almost €5.3 million.
Some 722 former privates and NCOs also received disability pensions from the Defence Forces last year at a cost of €4.9 million, while the spouses or children of 143 deceased NCOs and privates who had received disability pensions were paid just over €1 million.
A total of 115 officers who had retired on disability grounds received more than €1.5 million in pension payments in 2020, while the spouses or children of 17 deceased officers who had disability pensions were paid €269,980.
The spouses of 21 veterans from the War of Independence were still receiving pension payments from the Defence Forces in respect of their husbands’ service last year, totalling €153,740.
Earlier this month, Minister Coveney suggested the terms of the Defence Forces pension scheme could be incentivising members to leave the military for alternative opportunities.
“More than 50% of those who leave the Defence Forces do so with some form of pension. This can make taking up a position in the private sector very attractive where a full-time position, even at the same rates as those in the Defence Forces, could lead to an increase in an individual’s earnings,” he said in a reply to a parliamentary question.