Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Defence Seán O’Feargháil has reiterated his party’s pledge to build the number of personnel in the Defence Forces to 10,500. He was commenting following newspaper reports of a shortage of manpower and resources in the army’s bomb disposal units.

Deputy O’Feargháil said, “The current allowed 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. Furthermore during 2015 the numbers actually fell from 9,280 to 9,140. This is neither acceptable nor sustainable. The fact is the Defence Forces did not reach its allowed strength at any stage over the past five years.

“That is why Fianna Fáil is committed to restoring the Defence Forces to strength of 10,500 personnel across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service over a five year term.

“We will also restore the Army to a three brigade structure by re-establishing the 4th Western Brigade based in Custume Barracks, Athlone. The move to a two brigade structure was ill advised and it does not appear to have delivered any appreciable operational benefits and may have undermined operational viability.

“Fianna Fáil values the work of the Defence Forces and we take pride in their achievements at home and abroad. In this election, we are pledged to enhancing and developing the Defence Forces and putting them on a sustainable footing.”