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People refuse to join Defence Forces in Ireland; Government appointed a commission to examine issues

DUBLIN: It is estimated that young people in Ireland are hesitant to join the defense force for reasons such as unattractive service pay conditions. The government has also acknowledged that the recruitment and retention of defense forces is facing a serious crisis. The government has also appointed a new commission to study such challenges within the Defence Forces.

In December 2020, the government approved the formation of a Commission on the Defence Forces. This is something that is part of the government program. The Commission is expected to submit the report to the Government later this year.

The Commission on the Defence Forces is being chaired by Aidan O’Driscoll, former Secretary General of the Department of Justice and of the Department of Agriculture. The commission has 14 members on the commission, including retired members of the Irish Defence Forces, academics, and international experts.

Defense Minister Simon Coveney confirmed the issues

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney confirmed that the commission was considering issues including Ireland’s serious problems in recruiting and retaining members. The Minister said that the forces are facing a lot of problems and are trying to overcome these challenges. Minister Coveney said the commission has a much wider scope than previous commissions. “It goes way beyond pay, but it also deals with pay structures, which I know people want addressed,” he said.

The minister said the formation of a special pay body for the defense force would be considered. Their salary negotiations will be separated from the public sector wage agreement. The minister explained that the troops should be satisfied and its recommendations would be implemented as soon as the commission receives the report.

At the same time, Independent TD Denis Naughten said the commission should not look at the relationship between the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence as similar to the relationship between the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána.

“I do think that this is an issue that is missing in terms of this particular commission. If it is going to be structured like the commission on policing, it needs to look at that aspect and needs to make recommendations in terms of that particular relationships,” Naughten said.

“We also really need to tackle the issue of pay conditions. There’s something fundamentally wrong in a system where the number of frontline personnel in our Defence Forces is falling at a time where the number of staff in the Department of Defence are increasing,” he added.

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said it would be crucial to discuss the issue of salaries for members of the defense forces.

“Unless there is a basic living wage for new entrants into the Defence Forces, the issues around recruitment and retention will not be effectively dealt with and we will continue to lose highly trained, highly skilled men and women,” TD O’Reilly said.

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