Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare South, Fiona O’Loughlin, has said the record low numbers across all sections of the Defence Forces clearly demonstrates that a career in the Defence Forces is no longer seen as an option for many.

Deputy O’Loughlin said the issues with recruitment and retention were the Government’s own making, having treated the Defence Forces with contempt over recent years.

Deputy O’Loughlin said, “There was considerable anticipation ahead of the publication of the Public Service Pay Commission into pay and recruitment in the Defence Forces. There was a genuine hope it would contain something that would restore the morale of the Defence Forces. That hope turned to despair fairly quickly.

“96 cent per day before tax on their military service allowance is nowhere near sufficient enough to attract recruits, stem the flow of those leaving nor is it enough to raise morale. They have been treated as an easy target for cost cutting, with Fine Gael taking advantage of the unreserved loyalty and professionalism of the armed services.

“The Defence Forces play an essential role in peacekeeping and policing in Ireland and overseas. Their importance cannot be underestimated and the career path it offers has the potential to be hugely fulfilling.

“Yet, under the current Government, those who join the army, the naval service, or the air corps can expect low pay, staff shortages, unsocial hours and prolonged separation from their family. They can expect their overseas return dates delayed as a result of the Department failing to make the necessary arrangements. They might miss out on the opportunity to vote in elections here.

“Fine Gael’s approach to the Defence Forces has all the hallmarks of a covert attempt to wind down and emasculate the service to a point where it is no longer viable. We will not allow this to happen and are determined to ensure that the current crisis is resolved”, she concluded.