Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Defence Lisa Chambers has called on the Government to urgently recognise the important work carried out by our Defence Forces and to ensure that the strength of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is increased to 10,500 personnel by 2021.

The party is using its Private Members Motion this week to highlight the severe staffing and resources issues being experienced by our Defence Forces.

Deputy Chambers explained, “Over the past number of years we have seen a significant drop in Defence Forces numbers.  Despite a new recruitment campaign launched last year, the current figure of 9,070 personnel is well below the 9,500 agreed strength. This is simply unsustainable and unless urgent attempts are made to recruit people to the Army, Air Corps and the Naval Service, our Forces will be unable to effectively respond to current and emerging risk factors.

“The Defence Forces has been an easy target for cost cutting, its unreserved loyalty and professionalism perhaps taken advantage of. What we need now is stability, policy and resource certainty.

“It is clear that the current targeted strength of the Defence Forces at 9,500 has stretched its ability to fulfil its national and international assigned roles, maintain a credible contingent capability, and fulfil its required overseas rotations.  The bomb disposal service is at half its officer strength. The Air Corps has been significantly short staffed in the aeronautical engineering department and has only 70% of pilots needed. This depletion is hardly acceptable for a Force that acts as a guarantor of State sovereignty.

“Ireland needs to recommit to its Defence Forces and its defence capability. Fianna Fáil believes that we should look to increase personnel levels to 10,500 in coming year, and we realise the importance of retaining what we have.

“This motion recognises the need for Defence policy that is measured, fit for purpose, appropriately resourced, so that the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces themselves have staffing and support levels needed to deal with current and emerging threats”, concluded Deputy Chambers.