Fianna Fáil Defence spokesperson Lisa Chambers has expressed her deep concern about the continued decline in the numbers in the Reserve Defence Force (RDF).
The TD, who is herself a former reservist, says that at the end of May the effective strength of the Army Reserve and Naval Reserve was 1,941 personnel.
“The current strength of the Reserve marks a serious decline from the 2,280 members at the end of 2015. This is an extraordinary 15% drop in less than eighteen months, and it means that Reserve numbers are significantly less than half the approved establishment strength of 4,069. The fact is that if the Reserve continues to deplete at this rate, it will fall below 1,000 by 2020 and won’t exist at all by 2023”, said Deputy Chambers.
“There is a pervasive belief amongst reservists that recruitment is its life blood and without a steady stream of new recruits, the organisation is doomed to dwindle away to nothing.
“Reservists are also convinced that the deterioration in numbers is not due to a lack of interest from people looking to join, but is as a result of the failure of the Department of Defence and elements of the Defence Forces to realise the true importance of the Reserve.
“It is obvious to me that the Single Force concept is not helping the Reserve and its introduction in 2012 was a mistake. What is required now is for members of the RDF to become an integral part in the decision-making process surrounding their activities, and for example, the control of recruitment to be devolved back to the Reserve Defence Force.
“In its many differing incarnations over the years, the Reserve has served the State well, yet it has often gone unrecognised and undervalued. The enormous social value that the Reserve – and its spirit of volunteerism – provides to communities cannot be underestimated.
“The Reserve needs real and active support from Government and the Defence Forces. Otherwise it will be lost and we will be all be the poorer for it”.