Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Defence Jack Chambers is taking part in today’s Respect and Loyalty Parade to show the party’s solidarity with serving and past members of the Force and their families.

This is the second such parade, aimed at highlighting the current crisis within the Defence Forces, with falling personnel figures and reduced morale levels.

Deputy Chambers said, “Fine Gael cannot continue to ignore the crisis in Defence Forces. The numbers serving has fallen below 9,000 and morale among members is on the floor. Pay and conditions is one issue, but many members feel completely abandoned by Fine Gael. Twice in a six month period, there were issues with the arrangements for troops returning from overseas missions, something which caused deep upset and anger not only among the troops themselves, but also their families.

“It goes without saying that the single greatest asset the Defence Forces has is its personnel. However, there is huge difficulty in retaining and recruiting sufficient personnel. The Defence Forces is now seriously below strength and it is time now to significantly rebuild.

“The decline over recent years has left the force with just 8,847 personnel at the end of March – some 653 below the current agreed strength. It is likely that some 500 of these personnel are in training – meaning that the effective strength is under 8,350.

“Fine Gael’s attitude to the Defence Forces has undermined morale and is having a detrimental impact on the men and women who are proud to serve this country at home and abroad.

“Today’s march should act as a wake-up call for the Taoiseach and the Minister of State for Defence. The status quo is completely unacceptable, and they cannot continue to put the future of this great organisation at risk”, concluded Chambers.